September 2, 2008

Burst With Energy


It's what you're burning when you're not at the gym that counts

Slow and steady doesn't win the race when it comes to cardiovascular exercise and weight loss. Short bursts of high- intensity intervals mixed into your usual cardio routine will give you better results faster, said Clint Howard, exercise physiologist and owner of Fitness Together locations in south Tulsa and Bixby.

"Most people are kind of old school -- they think you're supposed to do long, slow cardio workouts," Howard said. "But you're not getting any benefit after you stop."

Stepping up your usual walk, jog or bike ride with interval training -- short, 30-second sprints or bursts of intense activity - - will help kick up your metabolism and keep you burning more calories and fat long after you've left the gym, Howard said.

The difference is those bursts of high-intensity exercise cause a phenomenon in the body known as "excess post-exercise oxygen consumption," causing your metabolism to stay elevated for an extra 24 to 48 hours after you workout, Howard said. Consider it the "afterburn."

"After you stop, your body is still breathing in extra oxygen," he said. "So you're getting an extra bang for your buck."

You get the added benefit of improving your cardiovascular capacity, and the body draws on glycogen stored in your muscles for energy.

Everyone from Harvard Medical School to the creator of the South Beach Diet has heralded the benefits of interval or high-intensity training in recent news reports, and scientific studies support the claims of better calorie burning. It's how many of those Olympic athletes get such stunning physiques.

"Doing 20 minutes of interval training is better than 45 minutes of long slow jogging or walking," Howard said.

To add intervals when jogging, cycling, swimming or any other favorite cardio routine or equipment, just go all out for 30 second bursts, then resume at your normal pace for a while. And repeat.

You'll not only break up the monotony of your workout, you'll keep burning calories and fat long after you've left the gym, Howard said.

Interested in trying intervals?

Interval training can be intense, so beginners should start with one to two sessions per week, with a day or two in between sessions for recovery. If you don't exercise regularly, start with 30- second bursts of intense activity and give yourself at least three to five minutes to recover. If you're fairly fit, you can strive for longer intense intervals and shorter recovery times. Work at your own pace.

Swimmers: Swim four laps at a moderate/ normal pace, and then swim one to two laps at a much faster pace, or with a more intense stroke, such as butterfly. Rest for 1 to 2 minutes after each set, and repeat.

Cyclists: During your regular-speed ride, add 15- to 90-second sprints of intense pedaling (or turn the resistance up on a stationary bike) and then resume regular speed for a few minutes. Start with 5 total minutes of intense interval effort per ride and work up from there.

Gym rats: Use the preprogrammed interval setting on your favorite piece of equipment, or work at your usual intensity for 3 to 4 minutes, then crank the speed, resistance or incline up several notches for 30 seconds to a minute. Repeat for 20 to 30 minutes.

Walking/jogging: Try 5-minute intervals of walking for 4 minutes, then jogging for 1 minute, for a total of 30 to 40 minutes. Regular joggers can add 30- to 60-second sprints for every half or quartermile they run, and those who prefer walking can simply speed up to a faster-paced walk for their intervals.

For more information

Fitness Together, 9708 S. Riverside Drive, 392-3488.

Cary Aspinwall 581-8477

[email protected]

Originally published by CARY ASPINWALL World Scene Writer.

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