After my post last week on Body for Life workouts, I got a comment about whether my workouts are shorter:
Overall, I am in the gym more days of the week, but I spend less time in the gym per session. Before BFL, I used to spend at least 50 minutes in the gym, because anything less felt like an incomplete workout. Heck less than a year ago, I trained to run (and finally did) 16km on the treadmill. However over the last 5 weeks that I’ve been following BFL, I can be in out of the gym within 35 minutes and still feel like I gave it my all.
Despite my initial doubts about only doing 20 minutes of cardio 3 times a week, I am convinced it works because of the High Intensity Training (HIIT) employed in BFL:
HIIT training raises your metabolism to a high level, and keeps it there long after the workout is over. Unlike longer, steady-state sessions of cardio, the effects of HIIT are most apparent after the workout: during the following 24 hours, your body expends more energy recovering, thus increasing your resting metabolic rate and overall calorie burn.
The specific kind of HIIT used in the program is known as the High Point Technique, and can be performed on any kind of cardio machine (I stick with the treadmill or arc trainer). It involves 4 repeated sets of high and low intensity intervals, and follows a specific structure based on RPE (rate of perceived exertion). Over the 20 minutes you repeatedly take yourself to a point where you are breathing very hard, and then reduce the intensity to recover before repeating the process. Minutes 18-19 is referred to as your high point, where you max out. Here is a sample way to complete the HIIT workout on the treadmill:
While we each have our own ‘high point’ (a.k.a. a level 10), a true high point is one where’s there’s no question whether you could have given a single ounce more of energy. Although I have no desire to continue the HIIT workouts for even a minute over 20, I normally follow the sessions up with a 10-15 minutes cool-down of moderate-intensity cardio.
The BFL technique of HIIT is probably the most challenging cardio I’ve done, but it’s also the most satisfying. Each of the 20-minute cardio sessions are hard work but if it means sleeping a bit extra in the morning, and then feeling both sensational and accomplished after I’ve finished the workout, they are definitely a “hit”!