High-Intensity Workouts

Whew boy. Somehow I got three shots of espresso into my body today, and well, here we are at nearly midnight and I’m out at the kitchen table typing away with squirrel-like rabid energy.

I haven’t been missing my New Yorker subscription too badly (thanks for passing along your back issues, Darlene and Steve), but I have been sucked back into reading Bella’s Vogue magazines cover-to-cover.

Fascinating brief article about fitness in the March 2010 issue called “fast and furious” by Elizabeth Weil.

“In the lab, rats that worked out hard (swimming with weights) for four and a half minutes, in 20-second intervals, reaped all the same physiological benefits as rats that slogged through six hours of swimming at lower intensity…Experiments of humans showed similar results. At McMaster University, in Ontario, Martin Gibala, PhD., asked two groups of students to work out three times a week for two weeks. The first group – the sprint group – pedaled a stationary bike at the highest intensity possible in 30-second bursts, totaling two to three minutes of exertion each session. The second group – pedaled at a continuous sustainable pace for 90 to 120 minutes at a time. At the end of six workouts, Gibala tested both groups and found that the sprinters and the endurance cyclists attained similar physical rewards (that is, comparable increases in athletic performance and changes in muscle fiber), even though the sprinters had exercised for 90 percent less time.” [boldface mine]

THAT IS CRAZY NEWS. (And I’m ignoring my distress at the lab rats who were made to swim for six hours.)

The author of the article found out first-hand why we don’t all choose high-intensity workouts after she tried this one:

1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute @ 5k pace. Equal rest (easy running) in between.

Yes, her workout was only nine minutes long, but she was puking by the end of her 3 minute set.

I’m intrigued.

Here are a few high-intensity workouts that were listed as tantalizing possibilities.

For runners: Hill sprints. After a warm-up, sprint up a steep hill for 20-30 secs. Jog down to recover. Repeat 8 times.

On a track or treadmill, after a warm-up, run 400 meters hard (one lap!), 200 easy, 800 hard, 400 easy, 1,200 hard, 600 easy, and repeat sequence in reverse.

The one I might try is a home-based workout for strength:

Complete as many rounds as you can in 20 minutes. Alternate sets of burpees (stand, jump to plank, push-up, jump forward to squat, jump up) with sit-ups: 10 burpees, 20 sit-ups; 8 burpees, 16 sit-ups; 6 burpees, 12 sit-ups; 4 burpees, 8 sit-ups.

My stomach hurts just writing about it.

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