Avoiding the Exercise Plateau

Stuck in an exercise rut? Maybe you should give HIIT a try. HIIT, or high intensity interval training, is an exercise trend on the rise. It is a cardiovascular exercise program which consists of periods of low intensity work alternated with periods of maximum intensity.

Recent studies have found that people may reap more benefits from exercise by performing high intensity interval training for shorts amounts of time only a few days a week, as opposed to exercising at a steady pace for longer amounts of time several days a week.

There are many variations of HIIT, but most begin with a five to ten minute walking or jogging warm-up, followed by a one to two minute sprint at a pace as fast as you can go, followed by a one to two minute recovery period of walking or lightly jogging. This can be repeated seven times for a 20 minute workout, or you can go up to thirty minutes.

Dr. Joseph Mercola, New York Times Best Selling Author and licensed physician and surgeon, recommends the Peak 8 program. On the Peak 8 program you warm up for three minutes, exercise as hard and as fast as you can for 30 seconds, recover for 90 seconds, and repeat the high intensity exercise and recovery 7 more times. The goal is to exercise vigorously enough so you reach your anaerobic threshold, which triggers the release of a growth hormone. It is important to only do this program two to three times a week; recovery days are crucial. Dr. Mercola recommends eating 20 to 25 grams of protein within 30 minutes after your workout to start the recovery process more quickly. He also advises limiting sugar consumption for two hours after your workout.

Your body becomes accustomed to performing the same workout, thus producing fewer results. To avoid hitting this exercise plateau, give HIIT a try. High intensity intervals will shock your body, causing it to burn more energy (fat) than what it usually does. HIIT improves cardiovascular health and burns fat  using fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are designed for short-lived, powerful energy bursts. Steady state cardio uses slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are for endurance.

HIIT improves your oxygen intake capacity, leading to overall endurance enhancement. This type of exercise increases the body’s ability to oxidize fats. Another benefits of HIIT is that you no longer have to spend an hour at the gym! We are all busy and it can be a struggle to fit gym time into our daily routines. With HIIT, exercising takes between 20 and 30 minutes, and only has to be done three days a week. You are likely to see faster results in less time. And, you can perform HIIT on the machine of your choosing – the treadmill, elliptical, or bike.

By Emily Borgeest