A way to get fit and also have… fun?

Love this idea and agree with the philosophy behind it. Change up your routine and give this fitness approach a try!

interval fitness

Can exercise that is intense also be fun?

Researchers in Denmark recently began delving into that issue and in the process developed a new approach to intense interval training that could appeal even to those of us who, until now, have been disinclined to push ourselves during exercise.

High-intensity exercise, usually in the form of short bursts of very arduous intervals interspersed with rest, has much to recommend it. Many studies have shown that even a few minutes of these intervals can substantially improve health and cardiovascular fitness.

But high-intensity interval workouts have a drawback that is seldom acknowledged. Many people don’t like them and soon abandon the program.

In a telling study published last year,researchers in New Zealand asked overweight, out-of-shape adults to complete three months of high-intensity interval training, using one of two common types of training programs. One consisted of either four minutes of fast jogging, a rest, and four more minutes of strenuous jogging. The other consisted of 30 seconds of all-out effort, followed by rest, and was repeated three times.

Some of the exercisers’ sessions were supervised, and some were supposed to be done on their own.

Both programs would have been expected to round the volunteer into much better shape.

They didn’t. Few of the participants became significantly more fit, especially in the 30-second hard interval group. The probable reason, the researchers speculate, was that most of the participants had quit doing most or all of their assigned exercise early on in the study.

This finding and others like it troubled Jens Bangsbo, a professor of physiology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, who studies high-intensity interval training. In studies at his lab, repeated hard intervals had almost invariably made people fitter, faster and healthier.

But those studies typically had involved highly motivated athletes riding high-tech stationary bicycles and had been supervised by the scientists, who personally had cajoled the participants to complete each interval.

Those were hardly real-world circumstances, Dr. Bangsbo realized.

So he and his colleagues began to wonder if there might be more practical and palatable approaches to high-intensity interval training.

“We wanted to create a workout that could be employed by everyone, from the nonexperienced person to the elite athlete,” Dr. Bangsbo said.

After some trial and error, they came up with a candidate routine and named it 10-20-30 training.

It has become my favorite interval program.

The essentials of 10-20-30 training are simple. Run, ride or perhaps row on a rowing machine gently for 30 seconds, accelerate to a moderate pace for 20 seconds, then sprint as hard as you can for 10 seconds. (It should be called 30-20-10 training, obviously, but that is not as catchy.) Repeat.

The enticements of this particular program are many. It is easy to remember and low-tech, requiring no gym membership, heart rate monitor, or flow chart, as some complicated interval programs seem to demand. You don’t even need a stopwatch to monitor the 30-, 20-, and 10-second time changes. You can, like me, count to yourself, which seems to make the intervals pass quickly.

Perhaps best of all, the grueling, all-out portion of the workout lasts for only 10 seconds, which is far more manageable for most of us than 30 seconds or 4 minutes.

But of course the program must be effective if scientists are to recommend it. So for a study published in December in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, Dr. Bangsbo and his colleagues set out to test the routine with a large group of average exercisers.

Approaching running clubs throughout Denmark, the scientists found 132 mostly middle-aged, recreational runners who agreed to substitute 10-20-30 training for two of their usual weekly workouts.

As a result, their weekly mileage fell by about half.

The scientists also recruited 28 runners to serve as controls and continue their normal training.

All of the runners underwent physiological testing at the start of the study, including a simulated 5K race.

Then the scientists turned the runners loose to continue with or abandon their training as they chose.

After eight weeks, almost all of the runners in the 10-20-30 group were still following the program. And when they repeated their 5K runs, they had shaved an average of 38 seconds from their times. Most also had lower blood pressure and other markers of improved health.

There were no changes among the runners in the control group.

Of course, any regular interval training should improve someone’s athletic endurance and health if it replaces slower training, which is why serious athletes incorporate interval sessions into their regimens.

But in Dr. Bangsbo’s study, the 10-20-30 program not only allowed the runners to train less while growing faster, it seemed to make the workouts pleasurable.

“The running clubs in our study reported much improved social interactions between members” during the workouts, Dr. Bangsbo said, because when the fastest runners turned around after each set of five 10-20-30 sprints, as most did, they found themselves following the slower runners, who had the satisfaction of being in the lead, at least for the moment.

You can undertake the program solo, too, or, as I have, with dogs. They are likely to be enthusiasts. This is how they always have run.

If you wish to try 10-20-30 training, Dr. Bangsbo recommends starting by replacing one or two of your normal weekly workouts with a 10-20-30 session.

Warm up with an easy jog (or pedaling or rowing), then ease into the intervals. The 30-second portion should feel relaxed; the next 20 seconds moderately hard; and the final 10 seconds a full gallop. “The aim is to cover as much distance as possible in those 10 seconds,” Dr. Bangsbo said.

Do five of the 10-20-30 intervals in a row without pause, then rest for two minutes by standing or very slowly walking about. Repeat the five consecutive intervals one more time, cool down, and you are done. The whole session, minus warm-up and cool-down, will have lasted 12 minutes.

If you are already in fine shape, Dr. Bangsbo said, add another set of the five uninterrupted intervals.

Rest the next day, he said, or very lightly exercise; don’t do two of the intense interval sessions in a row. Although a smaller percentage of runners in the 10-20-30 group sustained injuries than did runners in the control group in his study, “we recommend very slow progress.”

Original POST

Author: Gretchen Reynolds

Aging and fitness

Well, it’s a birthday (Hooray, Hooray for the 8th of May!) and as such I will go into a protracted and thoughtful meditation on what life means at this particular age and delve into some of the more pressing philosophical…zzz…zzz…zzzzzzz…. Wha?…huh?! Oh yes, I was going to, ah well, nope. I came across this great article today by Joe Friel in Outside Magazine posted by Mountain Gear and thought it made a lot of sense, so I’ll spare you all and share that instead.

Endurance Guru Joe Friel Says You Can Still Be Fast After 50

You just have to tweak your training and eating habits. Here’s how.
Hiking summit
High-intensity workouts involving hills or intervals are critical for aging athletes. Photo: iStock

Fifty is America’s favorite age. According to a recent Harris Interactive poll, if we could “skip time and live forever in good health at a particular age,” Americans, on average, choose 50.

Athletes, however, might think differently: 50 isn’t exactly associated with peak performance. But it’s still a damn good age to be an athlete, says Joe Friel, one of the world’s foremost experts on endurance sports. You can, in fact, be fast after 50. That happens to be the title of his latest book, Fast After 50. We had a chat with the endurance guru, who’s now pushing 70 himself, to find out how athletes can thrive after hitting the half-century mark.

OUTSIDE: Why 50? Why not 40, or 60?
FRIEL: Fifty is the age where performance declines become obvious, and can no longer be written off solely to non-sport commitments like family or job stress. Plus, other things occur at 50 that move aging to the forefront of one’s mind, like reading glasses, grey hair, facial wrinkles, and so on.

What was the most interesting thing you learned researching this book?
Across nearly all of the research, three changes appear to be responsible for age-related declines in performance: a decreasing aerobic capacity (VO2 Max), a loss of muscle mass, and an increase in body fat. These three factors—and how to slow the changes, or even temporarily reverse them—become the focus of the book.

And what can athletes do to fend off those changes?
Well, that is a complex question. But in short, completing high-intensity workouts—like intervals, hills, and weight training—is absolutely critical.

This can be a challenge for a number of reasons, though. For starters, aging athletes tend to gravitate toward long, slow distance (LSD) workouts because LSD training is more comfortable and does not demand as much recovery time, which can seem great because it lets us fill our increasing leisure time with exercise. Additionally, high-intensity training comes with increased injury risk, so both the intensity and frequency of high-intensity workouts needs to be managed in a very structured manner, which can be a turn-off for some.

All of that said, the bottom line is that the human body adapts positively to well-managed training stress (not just LSD workouts) regardless of age. Age is not the limiting factor. The desire to perform at a high-level and make the necessary sacrifices to do so is.

“Young athletes can get away with reckless training and with making mistakes in diet and recovery. But if they continue with this sloppy way of training in the second half of their lives, it catches up to them”

So for the over-50 athlete, a high-volume strategy may not be the best bet?
This is a proverbial “it depends” question. Who are we talking about? For some athletes that have been training at a very low volume, an increase might be beneficial to their performance (but they still need to do some high-intensity work). However, for other athletes, focusing on additional intensity trumps adding volume. The only way to find out (which approach is best) is to test different strategies and measure the results. Either way, the body cannot be forced to change quickly—it adapts slowly, especially as we get older—so any increase in volume or intensity should be gradual.

How does approach to everyday diet change for the aging athlete? How about recovery?
The research shows that as we get older, we need more protein in our diet. This doesn’t mean eating more food, but rather, replacing something, in this case, carbohydrates, with protein. Protein is anabolic, meaning it promotes muscle growth. Meanwhile, overdoing carbohydrates is likely to contribute to an increase in body fat because it causes insulin secretion which interacts with another chemical in the body, lipoprotein lipase (LPL), to store fat. When we are younger, testosterone keeps LPL in check allowing us to eat lots of carbs without increasing fat, but that changes with age. And don’t forget, women also have testosterone, just not as much as men.

Has anything changed in how you would coach a 30-year-old athlete as a result of writing Fast After 50?
Young athletes can get away with reckless training and with making mistakes in diet and recovery. But if they continue with this sloppy way of training in the second half of their lives, it catches up to them. If an athlete wants to be fast after 50, they need to understand their bodies and make adjustments in their training, ideally, earlier rather than later. [Like not short-changing recovery, focusing more on fueling and nutrition, and not racing too often.] But telling this to a young athlete is like selling ice to Eskimos. Most young athletes would benefit greatly (as they age) if they had an older athlete-mentor or coach throughout their careers.

Anything else older athletes should know?
I really want to stress that an athlete’s rate of recovery is the confounding matter in most decisions about training, especially when it comes to increasing the intensity of workouts, which, like I said earlier, is critical. While we spoke about the importance of nutrition, we didn’t touch on sleep. Sleep is huge, perhaps even more important than nutrition when it comes to recovery. Aging athletes should take an all-hands-on-deck approach to improving sleep. This includes the sleep environment—comfort, darkness, quiet, temperature—and also, what is done in the hour or preceding bedtime to encourage drowsiness, like sleep routine, reduced light, protein intake, quiet, and calmness. In Fast After 50, I offer more detailed strategies for improving sleep and recovery in general.

Source: Outside Online