Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I always like the week where we teach the groups how to do high intensity interval training (HIIT). Since they’ve been learning how to turn it up with the Level III training in the weight room, it was time to teach them how to turn it up in the cardio room.

It’s always fun to watch them do something that they were pretty sure they couldn’t do. Once they learn they can hang through the Biggest Loser workouts, they realize they could have been doing much more in their workouts all along. Then it’s just a matter of working it in to their regular routines.

Here’s how HIIT works. Whatever kind of cardio machine you have available, hop on and get going at an easy pace. We’re going to use a scale of “perceived exertion” created by a doctor named Borg. Now stay with me, resistance is futile. OK, enough of the Star Trek jokes.

The scale Dr. Borg put together was based on how you feel during the exercise. Not everyone has access to heart rate monitoring, so this is pretty useful, especially with high intensity intervals.

Scale of Perceived Exertion:
0 This is like doing nothing. (Coach Potato Zone)
1 This is almost like doing nothing.
2 This still feels pretty light. (Not much Benefit Zone)
3 This finally feels like light exercise.
4 This feels like moderate exercise—no big deal. (Low Intensity Zone)
5 This is getting a little harder but still pretty easy.
6 This is getting harder but still pretty doable. (Cardio Zone)
7 This is harder and I’m breathing harder, too.
8 This feels very hard and talking is tough. (High Intensity Zone)
9 This is extremely hard—I can’t talk!
10 This is MAXIMAL—I have to stop!!! (Have to Quit Zone)

Once you’ve warmed up for a few minutes in the Low Intensity Zone (on a scale of 1-10, what feels like about a 4 or 5), take it up to the Cardio Zone (what feels like a 6 or 7) for a minute. Then back it off to the Low Zone for a minute. Then do another minute in the Cardio Zone, and another minute of rest in the Low Zone.

Now take it up to the High Intensity Zone for a minute (what feels like an 8). Remember, it’s based on what it feels like—not actual levels or miles per hour—it’s totally subjective. What feels like an 8 to you might feel like a 6 to someone who’s been doing it longer. Don’t worry about that.

After a minute in the High Zone, back off to the Cardio Zone for a minute. Then hit it again. After another minute in the High Zone, slow it down to the Cardio or Low Zone to catch your breath.

What’s going on there is a condition called oxygen debt. During the vigorous exercise, your body was making more demands than your heart and lungs could—basically you can’t breathe in and deliver enough oxygen to cover the demands being placed on your body.

So, after the vigorous exercise stops, you’ll have increased respiration for a while. Once your breathing slows down, your oxygen demands have been met, and your heart rate will return to normal too. This is actually a mark of fitness. The quicker your heart rate and breathing return to normal, the more fit you are.

Finally, after a minute of rest, take the workload up to the top of the High Zone—to what feels like a 9 on a scale of 1-10. Remember, a 10 would mean you have to stop, so don’t go there—just get it up to a 9. Try to do the exercise for a minute. Then take it back down to the Low Zone for a minute to recover.

In my experience, most people underestimate what they are capable of, and in our group workouts, it was no different. So we did another minute at what felt like a 9, so they’d push it even closer to the limit. For it to really be a 9, you’ve got to be thinking about quitting at 30 seconds, and really wanting to jump off around 45 seconds. It takes all your will to just stay on the thing until a minute has passed, but you can do it. That’s a nine.

After a minute of rest, I had them do one more interval at what felt like a 9, because I still didn’t think they were there. This time, they were all dying—a few actually had to jump off. The rest were able to hang, but it was tough. That’s when I knew it truly was a 9.

For the ones who had to stop for a moment, there was no shame in that, because they’d actually pulled a 10. Now they know their limits. The interesting thing is that next time, there’s a very good chance they’ll be able to do it, because their bodies will adapt to the increased workload. They’ll come back with more strength and endurance, and likely be able to hang for the entire minute.

Once we finished the last interval, we rotated machines so people on the treadmill could try some intervals on the bikes, or elliptical machines and so on. All told, they did about a half an hour of exercise between the different machines. It was obvious that it was one of the toughest—for some it was the toughest—workouts they’d ever experienced.

This weeks Biggest Loser from the Friday night group was once again Scott Block, who lost 1.9% of his body weight and another 3.8 lbs. This brings him to 38.0 lbs overall, in just nine weeks! Second place was a tie between Jessica Trover and Lori Marietta, both losing 1.5%. Jess lost 2.2 lbs and Lori lost 4.2 lbs. Casie High placed fourth, losing 1.3% and 2.2 lbs, and Judy Rush finished fifth, losing 1.2% and 2.2 lbs.

In the Saturday morning group, our Biggest Loser was Jamie Wheeler who lost 1.4% and 2.2 lbs. Dale Rasmussen was second, losing about 1.0% and 2.0 lbs. Only six people made the weigh-in due to other activities and conflicts, but quite a few have also dropped. While the Friday night group is mostly intact, about half the Saturday people have fallen off along the way.

With nine weeks down, and just three to go, it’s time to start thinking about Biggest Loser and the summer groups. Once again, we’re going to do a Friday night group, and a Saturday morning group to give people some flexibility. Sign-ups start in a couple weeks, and the first meetings will be Friday, April 16th, and Saturday, April 17th.

If you’ve been looking for something to help you make a change this summer, you need to think about joining in. And just like the current groups, there will be no prizes—the only prize to win, is really the best prize of all—the chance to get your body back!

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