Like many who have committed to making exercise a regular part of your daily routine, you’re trying to maximize the time you put in. For competitive athletes who are looking for that edge over an arch rival, you’re trying to find the secret weapon that will help you run faster, jump higher, and last longer. And for the rest of you who are still waiting for the right time to start exercising, you’re just trying to figure out how to fit it into your schedule at all.
Well, if you find yourself in any of these categories (if you have a pulse you probably do), then let me introduce you to proven exercise philosophy: Circuit- interval training. This concept combines circuit training (utilizing multiple types of cardio training) and interval training (utilizing varying intensities to raise your heart rate).
Let’s look first at circuit training. You may have utilized this before at the gym or even a specialty place like Curves. This is when you go from one resistance machine to another with a specific short rest time between. This is a proven method of exercise to help burn more calories in a shorter time, and has been successful for many people. Now let’s apply that same principle to your cardio workout. Instead of 45 minutes on the treadmill, or the stationary bike or the elliptical machine, how about using all three. Everyone who has done 45 min. on one piece of equipment knows that when you reach a certain point, you get into a “groove” and feel like you’ve gone on automatic pilot. However, this state allows your heart rate to drop slightly since there is not quite as much effort needed to keep you “in the groove.” So, when you start to feel that heart rate drop (@ 15 min.), you get off the elliptical and get on the stationary bike. Then after 15 min., get on the treadmill. Now you’ve created an aerobic circuit of 45 min., but your heart rate stayed higher, and you got a better workout. You can do with as many different machines as you want and switch as often as you want. Also, if you only have two machines, just keep trading off one then the other.
So, who’s ready to kick this workout to the next level? Good – me, too. Now we can incorporate interval training into our aerobic circuit. During the 45 minutes you are going to add a 15 sec. “sprint” every 5 minutes. This will elevate your heart rate. By sprint, I mean increasing the intensity for 15 sec. above your regular baseline (i.e. if you’re walking at 3.5 mph, increase to 4.0mph. If you’re running at 7.0 mph, increase to 8.0 mph. You get the idea.) Now, as your conditioning level improves, you can increase the sprint interval to every 4 minutes, then every 3 minutes as well as increasing the sprint time from 15 sec. to 20 sec. on up to 1 minute for your high-level athletes. These sprint/rest intervals will actually improve your ability to recover during the slower portion of your rotation. This type of training is especially good for interval sports such as tennis where you are going at 100%, then rest between points, then 100% again. So now I’d like to turn it up one more notch, who’s with me?! O.K., I know I just lost most of you, but I know there are still some die-hards like me who want to maximize every second of their workout. Along with sprint intervals, throw in some calisthenics just to really make your muscles work…maybe a set of pull-ups, push-ups or plyo push-ups…maybe some jumping lunges, sit-ups or Pilates exercises. Anything you want, then get right back into the aerobic circuit without resting. A sample high level workout might be: a 4 min. warm-up on the cross country skier– then a 1 min. sprint– 2 min. at baseline. Then do 10 jumping lunges…back on the skier for 2 min. baseline– 1 min sprint– 2 min. baseline. Now do 10 pull-ups then 2 more min. baseline on the skier. Now quickly change to the upper body ergometer 2 min. baseline– 30 sec. sprint– 2 min. baseline backward– 30 sec. sprint backwards– Pilates Swiss ball abdominal exercise, and 6 plyo push-ups. Now switch to the stationary bike 3 min. baseline– 1 min sprint,– 3 min. baseline– 1 min. sprint– 2 min. baseline,– Pilates plank then back on the skier 3 min. baseline– 1 min. sprint– 4 min. baseline, 1-2 minutes to cool down, DONE!! Boy, do I feel great – 40-50 minutes of butt-kicking, sweating, endorphin releasing goodness for the body, mind and spirit.
Wow! Sorry I got carried away there a little bit. Let’s go back to the first two categories. For those of you who already do a 50 min. workout, say 25 min. resistance plus 25 min. cardio, you want to increase but don’t have the time. Just take the 25 min. cardio and split it between 2-3 machines. Then when you get used to that, add in some intervals and go to whatever level you feel comfortable. You should feel good – tired, but good. And for those of you just trying to start but don’t think you can fit it in, try this: Take 20-30 of your lunch hour and just walk. If you commit to that 4 days a week, I guarantee you will feel better after only a couple weeks. Now when that becomes routine, just add in a “sprint” interval of walking a little faster for 15 sec. every 5 min. Once you’ve made this commitment and start feeling the benefits, you will want to find a way to fit in some resistance training and stretching a few times a week also.
So this month’s tip to pump up your workout without pumping up the time is circuit- interval training. Don’t be in a hurry to increase the intensity too quickly. You should always feel good. “No pain, no gain” has no place in my routines. That is the attitude that lands people in my PT office with an injury. So work hard, but listen to your body, and increase your conditioning level one interval at a time.