Interval Training
  Kurt Ellingson 12:00 AM

I was reading an article that a client of mine sent me today- "High-Intensity Interval Training Is Time-Efficient and Effective, Study Suggests" (ScienceDaily (Mar. 12, 2010)). Here is a little snippet of the article:

"The study, from scientists at Canada's McMaster University, adds to the growing evidence for the benefits of short term high-intensity interval training (HIT) as a time-efficient but safe alternative to traditional types of moderate long term exercise. Astonishingly, it is possible to get more by doing less!

"We have shown that interval training does not have to be ‘all out' in order to be effective,” says Professor Martin Gibala. "Doing 10 one-minute sprints on a standard stationary bike with about one minute of rest in between, three times a week, works as well in improving muscle as many hours of conventional long-term biking less strenuously."

HIT means doing a number of short bursts of intense exercise with short recovery breaks in between. The authors have already shown with young healthy college students that this produces the same physical benefits as conventional long duration endurance training despite taking much less time (and amazingly, actually doing less exercise!) However, their previous work used a relatively extreme set-up that involved "all out" pedaling on a specialized laboratory bicycle. The new study used a standard stationary bicycle and a workload which was still above most people's comfort zone -about 95% of maximal heart rate — but only about half of what can be achieved when people sprint at an all-out pace."

This less extreme HIT method may work well for people (the older, less fit, and slightly overweight among us) whose doctors might have worries about them exercising "all-out." We have known for years that repeated moderate long-term exercise tunes up fuel and oxygen delivery to muscles and aids the removal of waste products. Exercise also improves the way muscles use the oxygen to burn the fuel in mitochondria, the microscopic power station of cells.

The "secret" to why HIT is so effective is unclear. However, the study by Gibala and co-workers also provides insight into the molecular signals that regulate muscle adaptation to interval training. It appears that HIT stimulates many of the same cellular pathways that are responsible for the beneficial effects we associate with endurance training. From what I have read and learned, interval training will show huge gains in fitness over the short term. The question that no one seems to be able to answer is, what does it show over the long term? Most scientists do not conduct these kinds of studies for more than a few months. From my own experience, the more high intensity exercise one performs, the more likely they are to get injured. As well, constant high intensity exercise over time will cause a plateau in training. You will get better and better over weeks and months, but eventually fitness gains will slow down.

When you see articles such as these, I urge you to err on the side of caution and do a little bit of research yourself before you dive into a high intensity interval training program such as the one described above. There is no doubt a time and place for HIT, especially in training, but it may not be something to do all year round. If you do choose to hit the gym for a HIT, remember to pack your favorite Elevate Me recovery protein energy bar!

Until next time,

Nicola Gildersleeve, Athlete/Ambassador

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