The Transformation of Cardio Training:

What HIIT Can Do for Your Performance at the Gym, at Work and in Life

Whether it’s running the road, spinning in a gym or kicking it up to a rhythmic beat, when doing cardio, the arms and legs are in motion and sweat is pouring, which must mean calories are burning and fat is dissolving. Thus, we assume that this must be the way to get in shape.

And, indeed, improved cardiovascular functioning is an important part of being in shape. But here’s the rub: Not only do extended sessions of cardio fail to enhance muscle, tone or shape, but it’s a well-established scientific fact that endurance-based cardio is actually in opposition to the vital lean muscle you’re so meticulously seeking to sculpt during your Fit for SUCCESS program.

Thus, should you choose to engage in low-intensity, long-duration cardio during your transformation, you will, effectively, be taking a giant eraser to your precious gains in lean muscle earned during your strength training sessions.

The Real Aim of Cardio
In 1996, I discovered the science of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). A highly effective form of cardio training, HIIT is specifically designed to maximize fat loss and minimize time, while supporting lean muscle.

The premise of HIIT is simple: Rather than waste time exercising at a slow pace, hoping fat melts off before you’re overcome with boredom, you alternate intervals of moderate-intensity cardio training with short bursts of near-maximum effort. These intervals keep you focused and engaged.

In research, HIIT has repeatedly outperformed conventional forms of low-intensity cardio. HIIT expends more calories not only while you’re training, but for hours afterwards as well. That’s right: While you’re relaxing, eating, working at your desk, and even sleeping, your metabolism races along at an elevated rate long after you’ve finished. More calories burned equals more fat lost—up to 50 percent. When it comes to transforming lives, HIIT is the perfect fit.

A HIIT for Your Success
One of the aspects of the Strength for Life HIIT Cardio Program that people tell me they like most is that HIIT can be applied to all sorts of activities, in and out of the gym. I like to apply HIIT when running stairs or doing short sprints, but it can also be done as effectively on nearly any cardio machine (stair-stepper, stationary bicycle, treadmill, rowing, elliptical) or activity where you can alternate periods of high intensity with periods of low intensity.

Start by engaging in a three-minute warm-up. Take a gradual, stepped approach to ready your body before reaching for your highest levels of intensity. Begin your first interval with 60 seconds at high intensity. (If you’re outdoors, you may want to try a physical measure, say 40 yards, halfway around the track or one time up a set of bleachers.) Then return to a lower level of intensity for 60 seconds. This allows you to catch your breath and prepare for your next all-out assault. Drop the little red dots on the machine down to about 30 to 40 percent of your peak. (On a scale of one to 10, you’re at a three or a four). Continue this pattern of alternating high-intensity and low-intensity 60-second intervals for a series of eight peaks. After your last peak interval, enjoy a two-minute low-intensity cool down. This ends your HIIT workout.

All peaks are not created equal. It’s up to you to discover your upper limits, which will most likely increase as you advance throughout your 12-week challenge.

Your time limit is 20 minutes. If you give yourself more time, you’ll naturally reduce your intensity so as to fill it. So don’t do it. Stick with 20 minutes, and make every minute count. Stay engaged in your training, and don’t allow a newspaper, magazine or TV to distract you.

We Got a HIIT!
Much like Focus Intensity Training®, HIIT relies on short all-out bursts of performance, followed by periods of active rest and recovery. (Recall last week’s Fit for SUCCESS post, “The Space Between the Notes.”)

So what does this have to do with your work performance? Applying the principles in HIIT and Fit for SUCCESS to your professional life will enable you to be more focused and driven to get things done and to ignore the common distractions that attempt to hijack your attention. You might recognize these as non-urgent e-mails, instant messages, news crawls, non-essential Web surfing and, generally speaking, all unnecessary interruptions. Go all-out, and then you can check out and recover during your break, whether it’s five minutes, an hour, a weekend or a week’s vacation. Then you’ll able to bring it 100 percent upon return.

Imagine, for a moment, running your day in a series of intentional, focused sprints, followed by moments of recovery.

How would that make you more productive? More Fit for SUCCESS?

Until next week,

Shawn

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