HIIT, Other Exercise, my prep for Race to 2025

High Intensity Interval training.

I've had a few (not many) people ask me what I'm doing exercise wise to prepare for the race - and to help lose all the weight I'm losing.

I usually give a silly or simplistic or short answer. So here is the longer answer that may interest a few people, may inspire a few (I hope!) and may help a few people live a better, healthier, longer life.

Look back at my 2nd Race to 2025 blog - I asked 'how can an old, fat guy ...' well, very strict dieting and a 15% increase in exercise has changed this to 'how can an old guy'... You really don't want to know about my diet, so here is my exercise plan - my normal plus about 15% more exercise than normal.

I am aware of the suggestion that HIIT makes it harder to lose weight - you gain muscle and some people gain fat as well, but this is about being in the best shape I can be in - and while yes I am very aggressively losing weight - about 10lbs every 20-30 days, and I am losing weight at that rate - even as I come close to my target, I do the HIIT for health and use my diet 'tools' to handle the fat gain problem.

All of this is just telling you what I do. You may find some of it useful for your purposes, or you may find your body is so drastically different from mine that it is of no value whatsoever. But this is what I do, and my body seems to currently be benefiting from it.

Summary:

One HIIT in the morning.

One HIIT in the evening.

Go to bed or, after 15-120 minutes cool down, go for my near nightly hot tub soak, then go to bed.

Repeat 5 times a week, sometimes 6, never 7.

Whenever possible, multi-task - trick myself into exercising while doing something else so I don't notice I'm exercising.

Details:

Using either my 'under desk' bike or my wife's exercise bike - 'ok' quality. I have them the desk Cycle set at a medium setting that 'works for me (I've gone up a bit since I started to high-medium).

HIIT #1

After I've been 'up' an hour or so in the morning (sometimes several hours - as late as early afternoon), and at least 1 hour after eating anything:

Warm-up: I spend 30 seconds in a light warm-up. Pedaling comfortably. Some recommend a 3 minute warm-up but I don't do that.

The 'training'

  1. I then go as hard as I can for 15-20 seconds. I go hard enough that somewhere between 14 and 18 seconds my legs 'die' and I can't continue.
    I take a 30 seconds rest. (pedal same pressure, but at an easy comfortable pace - but not 'dead slow'.)
  2. I go as hard as I can for 10 seconds - Hard enough that around 9 seconds my legs feel like they are burning and they give out.
    I take a 30 seconds rest. Pedaling slowly.
  3. I go as hard as I can for 10 seconds (slower than #2 above - because I can't) again, around 8-9 seconds my legs turn to rubber but I force them to 'just barely' finish the 10 seconds.
    I take a 30 seconds rest. Pedaling slowly.
  4. 10 seconds hard (just barely make the 10, my 5 year old says 'Daddy you aren't pedaling as fast')
    30 seconds rest. Pedaling slowly.
  5. 10 seconds hard (just barely make the 10)
    30 seconds rest. Pedaling slowly.
  6. 10 seconds hard (usually flagging at around 8 seconds, burning at 9, just barely keep pedaling to 10)
    30 seconds cool down. Pedaling slowly.
    2 to 3 minute cool down - walking around on my 'rubber' legs - actually within 30 seconds they aren't rubber anymore, breathing, wheezing etc..,
  7. 15 seconds hard (really I go full out for as long as I can - but I usually give out at around 15 seconds - I try for 20 but I have never made it, but I also push literally as hard as I can and 15 usually is my max.)
    30 seconds to 3 minute cool down. The 1st 30 seconds will be pedaling slowly, the rest, if any, walking around wheezing :)
  8. Last 10 to 15 second hard push (the time depends on how long the rest was.)
    30 seconds cool down. Pedaling slowly. If I don't feel like I want to puke - but not a 'desperate' need to puke and I have never actually puked, I figure I haven't done it hard enough and I'll do 2 or 3 more at 30 second intervals until I feel like puking. My legs also MUST be like rubber. The point is to literally push myself as hard as I can.
    several minute (at least 3) cool down - walking around. The feeling of needing to puke usually goes away early in this cool down.

The trick as I see it is to pedal as hard as you possibly can so that by 8 or 9 seconds you literally cannot keep going. Based on how my bike is set up - the first time I can't pedal that fast, so I go an extra 5 or so seconds before my legs collapse. So I don't worry so much about the exact amount of seconds as I do about reaching a limit I simply cannot continue in 'about' 10 seconds.

It reminds me of when I was an indoor soccer (real football), we did 2 to 3 minute rotations. I had one kid who refused to come off when his time was up. His claim was 'I can go a lot longer - I don't need a break'. Now, in indoor soccer, everyone except the goalies are running all the time, at least at the level we were playing. He was often not where he could be because he 'ambled' instead of ran. I kept trying to explain to him - if you don't need a break after 2 or 3 minutes - you aren't running hard enough - I wasn't impressed that he didn't need a break - I was disappointed at how little he tried. As I see and practice it, this is the concept of HIIT except - you are trying to burn yourself out in 10 to 20 seconds (depending on the program), a quick 30 second to 3 minute rest, and then repeat until your body is pushed to its limits. The goal and hope is that this trains it to increase its capacity in muscle and lungs.

My HIIT is a 10 minute (9 minute 30 second) routine. Some people do a 20 or 30 minute routine. Given how I do it, I find it impossible to go further without a longer break - I think when you go 20 or 30 minutes you are naturally going 'easier' on yourself for the first 10 to 20 minutes and not going 'full out', so if you believe in the principles of the HIIT, it seems that 30 minutes is too long of a program.

I think it is working, but I have no solid scientific evidence to prove whether it is - but I'm fairly sure so I'm keeping it up for now.

HIIT #2

Repeat HIIT #1, but at least 1 hour after supper.

Go to bed OR … wait until I 'feel' completely recovered/cooled down, then go for my near nightly hot tub soak.

Comments and Notes:

Am I trying hard enough?

I'm not sure I'm trying hard enough. I read comments like this and wonder:

Which means: If you’re able to go for even one second longer—or pencil in another HIIT session tomorrow—you probably didn’t go hard enough. We hate to be so blunt, but that's the truth. Most people aren't used to pushing themselves as hard as necessary for HIIT, especially a HIIT workout that's as short as 7 or 10 minutes. From this page and others like it

Why HIIT?

Fast Twitch muscles

I'm told that you have 2 (or 3) types of muscle fibers. Slow, medium and fast (where medium and fast are 2 types of 'fast'.)

A Duck has mostly slow twitch - and I understand that is why all it's 'meat' is dark, a duck can fly for hours - but foxes can catch them because they can't take off - speed up- quickly. The same info sources tell me a chicken has white breast muscles because it has 'fast twitch' muscles - it can fly up to the top of the coop very quickly to avoid a fox, but it can't fly for hours or evade a hawk for long.

I believe I've always had lots of slow twitch fibers - I used to swim 16 miles at a time, or bike for hours, and I do 12+ hour multi-hundred kilometer bike rides once a year with no real preparation. But I've never been a sprinter, over even a short distance runner.

I'm told that the older I/you get, starting in late 20's, the more you lose fast twitch muscle fibers and the harder it is to keep them or increase them. So it seems reasonable for me to add this to my life habits - and seriously consider doing it until the day I die.

I'm also told that low blood pressure is associated with having slow twitch - which seems consistent since I've had low blood pressure all my life (97 over 67 in Jan 2018, Optimum I'm told is less than 120/80 and greater than 90/60) I don't see this as a problem, but it does suggest I can do a lot of HIIT training without worrying about getting high blood pressure. The point here is that, given what I have done for years and what by body has been like for all of my life is such that adding a fair amount of HIIT seems like an excellent idea and seems to be working.

Fat burn/increased metabolism for 24-48 hours

Long term, losing fat and gaining muscle means I can eat more without gaining weight. I love eating! Again, while I have been aggressively losing weight from Sept 2017 to Feb 2018 - my goal was indirectly to lose weight, my real goal was to lose fat - but weight was, for the first 50 or so pounds, the easiest way to judge success. Long term, I have set my target at 13% with a maximum of 15% body fat - so anything that lets me get healthier, eat more, gain strength, gain endurance, increase lung capacity, only take 10 or 20 minutes every day or two and is fun - I like pedaling - seems like a win win to me!

Will I keep doing it as often as twice daily, 6 days a week?

I don't think so. There are warnings that doing it too often can cause injury, that it can make it 'not fun' which means you'll go from too often to never. So I see, long term, I may go to doing 'leg' based HIIT (cycle) 2 or 3 times a week, and 'arm' based HIIT (clap push-ups etc..,) 2 or 3 times a week on the alternate days. But we'll see - that is just where I think I'll go. In the mean time - if my muscles are sore, I don't do the next HIIT. If my muscles are not sore, I do the next HIIT - and I conclude 'obviously I didn't do it hard enough last time, better do it harder this time.'

But I'm still inclined to try for 6 sessions a week because I don't like the 24 part of the 'for 24-48 hours' - I want the most inefficient - I mean fast - metabolism I can all the time so I can eat more chocolate and candy and jerky and bread and fruit and pumpkin pie and fats and vegetables and meats of all sorts and - well, any other food that happens to be around.

Hot tubs:

All the advice I've seen says 'wait 24-48 hours before going into the hot tub'. But then I could only do 3 HIIT days a week.

The advice also says that I can use the hot tub - 10 minute soak - ahead of time as a 'warm up'. I find that just makes me want to go to bed and sleep - I have no energy left to push myself hard. So basically, I ignore most of the advice with respect of the hot tub and HIIT. Does it invalidate the training? Maybe - but at least I enjoy my life!

I may re-evaluate this in the future.

Sweating:

I almost never sweat doing this - I come close to sweating, but I don't usually sweat. This may be because of my age (56 as I write this), I'm told as you get older you sweat less. But basically, at least right now, I am unable to go hard enough in the time to sweat. I do the HIIT at about 20C/70F plus or minus. I do wear a very light, large, cotton T-Shirt and shorts when doing it. I expect in the summer, when it gets hotter (no air conditioning) that I might sweat then.

I have tried to push harder so that I sweat, but I just don't seem to be able to.

Lung capacity:

I was told when I was about 17 that due to many bouts of pneumonia that I had only half lungs and that I would never recover. I don't know whether I did, but my inability to get more oxygen to my legs may be what is preventing me for going hard and/or from sweating. I know I have very little capacity to 'sprint'. When carrying a 60lb weight on my back, I can only sprint for about 600 feet and then over the next 30 feet I lose all ability to run, I have to walk until I 'recover'.

I hate exercise:

I have never had runner's high (where I start to like exercise where exercise is the goal). I hate exercise, when I used to run 'for my health', even after 16km in a row or 30km in a day (separated by church) - I hated it. I was glad when I got 2 small varicose veins and my doctor give options that included the only one I listened to: Stop running.

But I like the benefits I get from exercise, so I trick myself mentally.

I try to 'get' exercise wherever I can.

It means:

  • I walk fast when I can.
  • I run short sprints when I can. (No problem with my varicose veins this way.)
  • I enjoy road biking long distances - especially with friends at roughly the same level.
  • I like hiking, mountain scrambles, snow shoeing, cross country skiing etc..,
  • I take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator if it is less than 7 stories at 4000 foot altitude, or 21 stories at sea level (more oxygen - my capacity is very dependent on the amount of oxygen available.)
  • I put rocks in my backpack when hiking.
  • I give lots of rides to children - hours of it when doing things like an entertainment park (Calaway park for those in the Calgary area.) I give rides to kids lots while hiking with them (after all, their pace is slow for me.)
  • I play with kids. I get down to their level, I get back up. I give horsey rides, piggy rides, shoulder rides, upside-down shoulder rides. I get multiple kids on me at the same time, I become a jungle gym, I put my arms out and let them climb my arms.
  • I stand with the balls of my feet and my toes on a 2x4 when working on the computer 'up-stairs' instead of sitting in a tall chair, or I just stand in front of the computer. I also do this while watching a movie.
  • I do curl ups and butt-lifts (not sure correct names) for about 30 minutes when putting kids to bed.
  • I have a finger strength exerciser in one of my washrooms that I use when I'm, ah, 'there'.
  • I have bike pedals 'DeskCycle' under my desk, low setting so I don't stress hard doing it.
  • I have a small stepper that I can use when talking on the phone.
  • I stand instead of sit whenever I can.
  • I do chin-ups and push-ups from time to time by just 'doing' them, sometimes when 'on the phone' (I mute it while doing it.)
  • I 'bounce' to music (ok, this I just naturally do - in theory it has nothing to do with exercise.)

The mental process:

Basically, I try to multi-task, do one 'real' thing and fit as much exercise into it as I can without wasting TIME doing exercise.

The only 'exercise' I get is:

  • The 2 - 10 minute HIIT a day is my only 'lost time' for exercise, and I try to mentally work on some program during all the 'rest' portions of it.
  • Several quick push-up sets daily 'when convenient' (I count when I first get up and just before going to bed - convenient')
  • Several chin-up sets daily 'when convenient'.

So basically, mentally, I get almost zero exercise, but I am fully aware that I have 'tricked' my brain into thinking it isn't having to exercise while in reality, I'm pretty sure I get more exercise than the average 50 year old - and I think more than the average 20 year old.

About the only 'decade' after 20 that might beat me on average is the 40 year group - you know when men supposedly get that ridiculous 'mid-life crisis' thing. Since my goal is to work for Christ until I am 120, and I figure the 1st 20 years is 'growing up' I plan on having my mid-life crisis when I am 70. Here's the math: (120 - 20)/2 + 20. To be clear - this whole paragraph is a joke based on common beliefs, in addition, I have no intention of ever having one of those ridiculous mid-life crises.

I have followed most of this, other than the HIIT, for most of my life, so the HIIT is the only thing that may end up being a fad. But for years -I played squash nightly with one of my sons - so I got the equivalent of HIIT that way. HIIT is replacing the lack of squash in my life … anyone want to play squash with me once or twice a week? I have a full legal squash court in my house that we can play in … it is used mostly as a gym for my kids right now.

What's next?

I'm thinking about installing a climbing wall, but waiting for Child and Family services to approve it.

I'm running in Feb 2018 in an 'extreme' outdoor (very cold yes, -20C likely, but maybe warmer or colder) race.

I'm hoping to run in June/July 2018 a 1 day, 500km '24 hour non-stop' bike ride. Want to be on my support team for this?

The last two I'll be raising money for literacy.

Hey, thinking about that ;) Donate here! and help us start literacy in every remaining language by 2025!

Updates

2018.01.19 I was doing it just on the bike upstairs, but I seemed to be in the way. I'm now doing more on my 'under-desk' desk cycle, it is a little more difficult - but at least it doesn't annoy other people.

Published: 2018.Jan.16     Last edited: 2018.Feb.26

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