Endurance Guy Trying HIIT? Do Strength-focused Versions. (HIIT Challenge, Week 5)

As discussed in the introduction to this challenge (click the link in the Challenge box to the left if you want to see that), underlying the many variations of “HIIT” out there are two basic concepts.

There are Cardio Intervals. I.e, going fast enough for a short period to be uncomfortable/unsustainable, then a period of slower pace to recover, then repeat. And there’s Metabolic Conditioning.  That is, doing strength move intervals at a pace and difficulty-level that brings high-intensity benefits of elevated heart rate and amped-up metabolism.

Which to choose? Here’s a point-of-view if you’re mainly a runner, a cyclist, a swimmer or a “cardio machine guy.” That is, if strength work is the “junior partner” in your exercise mix.

In this case, I urge you to bring HIIT into your life by having it be strength-focused, man. Here are three reasons why, with some curated best-of reading to expand on each point.

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I know the title says “Week 5.” But Challenge articles at OlderBeast are more like a Netflix season than a traditional TV one. All the HIIT ones written so far are available right now, here.

So if you’re new to this, you haven’t “missed” anything and you’re not particularly behind. This Challenge is simply for you to experiment with HIIT workouts six times before New Year’s so you can decide if-and-what-kind-of HIIT is right for you. So jump into the Week 1 intro now and get going, dude. You don’t have an excuse not to.

As Week 1’s intro laid out in more detail, underlying the many variations of “HIIT” out there are two basic concepts:

  • Cardio intervals. I.e, going fast enough for a short period to be uncomfortable/unsustainable, then having a period of slower pace to recover, then repeating.
  • Metabolic conditioning.  That is, doing strength move intervals at a pace and difficulty-level that bring the high-intensity benefits of elevated heart rate and amped-up metabolism.

Which to choose? Here’s a point-of-view if you’re mainly a runner, a cyclist, a swimmer or a “cardio machine guy.” That is, if strength work is the “junior partner” in your exercise mix.

In this case, I urge you to bring HIIT into your life by having it be strength-focused, man. Here are three reasons why, with some curated best-of reading to expand on each point.

1. Cardio workouts are the natural way to get benefits of longer/slower exertion — why mess with that?

Despite all the hype around HIIT, longer/slower is still a great thing to have in your mix. This article argues why, but to summarize here:

  • If you want to get in shape for things that require persistent effort for a period of time – a major hike, a long bike ride, a running race – guess what? The best way to train for that is to put in persistent effort over a long period of time!
  • Outdoor running and biking, and any kind of swimming, bring solitude and meditative benefits along with their physical ones. Whether you want to clear your mind and de-stress, or allow creative thinking and problem-solving to bubble up…that steady aerobic zone and distance from noise and media do the trick.
  • No one – especially not at 40-something or beyond — should be all-intense, all-the-time. That leads to burnout and injury, usually.

So if you’re getting these benefits from workouts you’re already motivated to do and have a good track record with…don’t disrupt this. Keep a good thing going, man.

2. You DO need more strength work. And strength-focused HIIT is a stimulating, time-efficient way to get it.

As we age, keeping at it with the strength work is critical because:

  • It helps with performance in cardio pursuits. For example, see this NY Times article about how marathon runners benefit from leg strength work.
  • It protects us from repetitive-motion or muscle-imbalance injuries that endurance sports can cause. Leg and butt muscles protect our knees, core muscles protect our back, intelligently exercising shoulders prevents issues there, etc.
  • Muscle mass burns more calories than fat, so our base metabolic rate is higher when we stay stronger. And yeah, this rate declines as we age, but getting to higher for-our-age levels of fitness can fight this. More on that here.
  • Muscle tone keeps us looking and feeling more vital and less “old.” Remember: we may be old-ER, but we’re not “old.” Call this vanity if you want, but if it keeps your self-confidence intact or growing, and further motivates you to exercise…then I call that cool.

3. Strength is also a key to basic health and longevity (cardio doesn’t own that whole benefit).

Cardio exercise has long basked in the glow of scientific proof that it helps stave off life-diminishing conditions and actually extend our lives. And deservedly so.

But recent research is revealing that strength maintenance may be just as vital to longevity and health. See this major Australian research study on the topic, which found that:

  • People who did strength-based exercise had a 23 percent reduction in risk of premature death by any means, and a 31 percent reduction in cancer-related death.
  • Body weight exercises without specific equipment were just as effective as gym-based training.
  • Adherence to the World Health Organizations’s strength-promoting exercise and aerobic guidelines combined was associated with a greater risk reduction in mortality than aerobic activity alone

Conclusion: Cardio-centric guys benefit the most from HIIT when it’s strength-focused.

If you’ve been reading this and wondering whether the converse of all this is true – that guys who mainly focus on strength work should use HIIT that centers around cardio intervals — this is not as true.

Why? Because when you “HIIT-ify” muscular strength work, you’re turning it into a form of cardio exercise, too. If your pulse is above a certain level, that’s cardio, man. But HIIT-ifying cardio (e.g. running or biking hard intervals) doesn’t make that activity magically work all your major muscle groups.

So in particular for the endurance-focused guys I’m talking to here (and that’s where I tend to come from as a place of comfort)…HIIT is a good way to get your weekly dose of strength work. Try it.

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Four Online Yoga Sources for Busy (or Reluctant) Guys — Fall 2017 Yoga Challenge, Week 4

Fall 2017 Yoga Challenge, Week 4. If you need to catch up, no big deal (this is a self-paced challenge during Oct-Dec this year, and you don’t need 12-13 weeks to meet its basic goals). Click on “Yoga for Men” in the Challenges box to the left, to see Week 1 and other posts.

As a reminder, challenge goals are: (1) Do at least six yoga practices during October-December 2017; (2) Have those practices span at least two sources of instruction (yoga studio instructor or online class), including at least one in-person studio experience; (3) Achieve at least three weeks in a row where you get a yoga practice into your routine, during the span of this challenge; and (4) Decide by New Year’s if-and-how you will keep yoga as part of your fitness and wellness routine.

To seek these goals — and for life-with-yoga after the challenge, if you go that way — online yoga classes are a great resource. You can use them when you don’t have time to get to a studio, are traveling, or for any number of other reasons. Including this honest one: you’re just not “up for” doing yoga in public yet. I get that. I felt the same way. But after doing a bunch of online yoga practices, I knew enough about what an in-person class would entail — and could do “enough” of the stuff” — that I was ready to brave the studio.

So here are four recommended online yoga class offerings. Each has a bit of a different style. They all offer free or sub-$1 trial periods so you can experiment with two or more of them if you want.

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Avoid These Four HIIT Risks (HIIT Challenge, Week 6)

There are drawbacks to anything/everything we might do for fitness. That’s why, especially in our 40s and beyond, it’s so important to create your own personalized workout mix to get the best-of various things, and navigate around their con’s.

If you’re reading this, you’re already aware of HIIT’s benefits. And maybe already feeling them for yourself. So now’s a good time to flag potential drawbacks of HIIT and discuss ways to avoid them.

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Another Fitness-as-we-Age Trick: Add HIIT Intensity to Everyday Workouts (Fall 2017 HIIT Challenge, Week 4)

Fall 2017 HIIT Challenge, Week 4! If you need to catch up, no big deal. Click the “HIIT” link in the Challenges box to the left of this post, to get started.

If you’re taking this challenge, you plan to try out at least a few HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) classes at an in-person gym or studio, and experiment with online classes or on-your-own work at home. These are all ways to help you experience how HIIT can combine cardio and strength conditioning, and burn a lot of calories (during and after your workout).

But: a workout doesn’t have to formally be a “HIIT” one to confer some of HIIT’s benefits. You can (and should try to) add some interval concepts into running, cycling, swimming or “traditional” strength training. As architect of your own long-term body-and-soul health, this would be a good example of coming to understand what different forms of fitness and different workout approaches can do for you, and orchestrating them within your own game plan.

So please read on for my two cents on how to “HIIT-ify” your current workouts.

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Fall 2017 Yoga Challenge: Week 3 (Yoga Advice from the Web)

Fall 2017 Yoga Challenge, Week 3! If you need to catch up, no big deal (this is a self-paced challenge during Oct-Dec this year). Check out Challenge instructions by clicking the Yoga for Men link in the Challenge section to the left.

For this and other OlderBeast seasonal challenges (HIIT’s the other current one), “best of the web” content is part of the rotation. I’m always looking for useful stuff, sometimes at the theory/rationale level, and a lot of times at the concrete “what-to and how-to” levels.

In that spirit, here are three Yoga-focused sources I think you’ll find useful.

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