Well-Being//

An Expert Trainer on the Age-Defying Wonder of High Intensity Workouts

Why "HIIT" training, and what exactly is it?

Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash

I was sitting at home recovering from a rather strenuous leg and core circuit workout I had sweated and grunted through earlier in the day, and came across this very interesting and relevant article in the NY Times titled: The Best Exercise for Aging Muscles – Certain kinds of exercise may mitigate the effects of aging at the cellular level. I read the title again, quite incredulously I thought, “Surely, they aren’t referring to me and my then aching, sore muscles, or were they? The idea of anything mitigating the effects of aging had my full attention! “For more than a quarter of a century (boy, that sure is a long time!!), I have dedicated my life to the health and well being of countless men and women of all ages, levels of fitness and goals. I have always taught my clients to listen to and respect their bodies.

Never one to subscribe to “cookie cutter” workouts, I have found that as my clients and I get older the days of 100-pound dumbbells and 300 – pound squats and bench-presses are a thing of the past. Sure, I love banging around 70 lb. dumbbells every now and again, but by and large, High Intensity Interval Training* [HIIT TRAINING] and express workout circuits have replaced them. The result – less back, knee and other joint related issues; beyond the physical, my workouts leave me and my clients feeling mentally and spiritually uplifted. You might ask yourself, “Why HIIT training, and what exactly is it? In my opinion, HIIT training is a more sophisticated version of the 80’s High Impact Aerobics craze [with weights]. “High Intensity interval is a technique that requires you to give everything you’ve got for short bursts of exercise, followed by periods of rest. Research has shown that this method that pushes you practically past your MPRE [maximum perceived rate of exertion], for a short period of time, is more effective than doing long sessions of just cardio or weight training. 

The intensity [and it is intense!] boosts your metabolism by using up more oxygen than your body can take in. Your body then keeps consuming higher levels of oxygen to make up for the deficit, burning fat well after the workout ends. Studies even show that HIIT can help improve cardiovascular health, increase stamina, and control glucose levels. Though people once thought HIIT was only okay for athletes, more research keeps coming out showing myriad health benefits for people with chronic health problems such as diabetes, pulmonary disease, arthritis, and for those recovering from strokes. Plus, [and this is music to my ears] its excuse – proof requiring little time and no specialized equipment.” [Ultimate Family Wellness ©2016 David Kirsch.]  Is it possible that the workouts I do and prescribe not only sculpt and tone your various desired body parts, but also make you look and feel younger from the inside out and from the outside in? I have seen the evolution in my own workouts – me at 56 versus me ‘pumping iron for hours at a time in my 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s. 

I am able to workout hard with my trainers (half my age), but my recovery time is not what it used to be. Here, I find the research and findings in this article very compelling. “..But the damage accrued by cells in older muscles is especially severe, because they do not regenerate easily and they become weaker as their mitochondria, which produce energy, diminish in vigor and number.” Ah, that could explain why as I have settled into my 50’s, my body, has become more lean and athletic, and less like a competitive body builder.

Not easily disheartened, and being pushed and motivated by my 7 year old twin girls to look and feel my best, I continue to look for ways to physically and mentally challenge myself and my clients (above the age of 50) to strive to be their very best. You can then imagine my delight when I continued reading the rest of the article and the conclusions they came up with. I will concede my body doesn’t push the weight and recover like it used to, but notwithstanding that, my brain, and body on a deep cellular level, are stimulated and invigorated through the use of interval training.

I find myself using this knowledge when I train and consult with clients in their 40’s, 50’s and older. Whether it’s tight hip flexors, week lower back muscles or achy knees, I have experienced them and know how to work through them. Whereas no two bodies are exactly alike, I find integrating mini exercise bands for hips, thighs and butt, a very effective shaping, toning and sculpting tool without the potential strain on your hips, knees and lower back. Resistance bands are also a safe and very effective, versatile, portable, transportable and affordable. Large exercise bands are great for providing resistance while running; and assistance with pull-ups.

One of my favorite interval training workouts integrate the rowing machine – 250-meter sprints, immediately followed by Spiderman pushups, jump squats, burpees, and switch lunges. This circuit can be repeated 3 – 4 times and integrated into a larger full – body workout.

As the study concludes, [and I personally concur], the decline in cellular health of muscles associated with aging can be “corrected” with exercise, especially if it is intense interval training. As I have said countless times, one is never too old, and it is never too late to benefit from exercise. Now, get out of the chair, off of the sofa, put down your iPhone, and get out and get moving!!

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