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Updated: April 26, 2014 16:08 IST
Working It

HIIT is a hit

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Once you reach the weight-loss plateau, it’s High Interval Intensity Training to the rescue.

You’ve been working out for years, hitting the gym religiously at least four or five times a week or running/walking regularly. Slowly, as the years pass by, this “Yes, I am working out” becomes “At least I am working out”. You look at yourself in the mirror and actually see no difference in yourself.

The trainer says, “Maybe you’ve hit the plateau”, and changes your workout plan. But nothing much really changes. What happens is that we stay in our comfort zone even while working out and so the body does not see exercising as more exertion. What you probably need is more intensity. And this is where the High Interval Intensity Training (HIIT) comes into play.

There are no protocols to HIIT but the strategy is to push the intensity to near maximum effort and alternate it with lesser intense exercises for recovery. The number of repetitions and length of each depends on the exercises; it can even be as little as three reps with maximum intensity for 20 seconds each and recovery at 50 per cent intensity.

The good news is that you don’t need any fancy equipment or accessories for HIIT. Your body can provide the required resistance through running, skipping, sprinting, rowing, biking, plyometric jumps… The key is to workout at an anaerobic zone or the point where you gasp for breath, where the heart is pounding and the body feels like it will snap any moment. Not a very pleasant feeling, which is why most of us don’t push ourselves. Ideally 10 seconds to two minutes is the time the body can be sustained in an anaerobic zone. But a 15-minute workout thrice a week will do because you are not only burning up more calories but also putting the body into major repair and recovery mode for the next 24 hours by increasing the basal metabolic rate and burning more fat resources. HIIT improves maximal oxygen consumption more effectively than the traditional approach of long aerobic workouts and improves factors related to metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels and abdominal fat).

But this is not a workout you can do while chatting with your friend or watching TV. It needs focus and concentration. And as with all workouts, get a check-up before you actually decide what to do.

Jayanthi Murahari is an ACE-certified fitness consultant.

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