Steady state aerobic exercise is pretty low on my list of efficient exercise, and outside of endurance athletes, it’s not that important for most people. Big results come from appropriate dietary choices, focusing on movement quality, strength training, and interval training. Eat your steak and spinach, up your squat, run some sprints, and you should be in business.
The problem is, when it comes to High Intensity Interval Training, it’s really easy to assume that you’re “On” or resting for the appropriate amount of time, when in actuality, you’re slowing things down a bit. Perhaps you’re cutting out a bit early, or resting a few seconds. No big deal, right?
Perhaps it’s not as big of a deal with the pre-programmed programs that you’ll find in most treadmills and elliptical, as they tend to have longer bouts of work or rest; perhaps two ‘hard’ minutes and three ‘easy’ minutes. A few seconds likely have little effect on those intervals. When it comes to non-machine based training, you’re probably following a much shorter period, and you may need some technological help to keep you on the right path.
Sure, you can keep an eye on a clock, and that’ll do the trick. The only problem that can arise from that is you become quick to cut out early or give yourself a few extra seconds. Those extra seconds can be the difference between a 15 second on, 15 second off, 1:1 work/rest ratio, and a 20 second on, 10 second off 2:1 ‘Tabata’ interval.
Rather than succumb to poor time keeping, let me suggest downloading an app to your smartphone or iPod that does all of the time tracking for you, so you can stay focused on training safe and hard. I’ve recently downloaded an interval time to my Droid, and have been using it in a variety of capacities, including keeping myself honest with my own intervals, as well as providing accurate work/rest ratios for my clients.
The specific app that I downloaded is called A HIIT Interval Timer, and it’s available in the Google Play store. So far, it’s a big hit, and by that I mean that everyone hates hearing the countdown.
The app allows you to save each workout that you plug into it, and I’ve enjoyed being able to customize factors for specific clients, such as naming work periods “Go HAM” for the Kanye fans, or “Fight” for the MMA fans. It’s a lot more fun to start an interval with “Go HAM!” or “Fight!”, rather than “Begin.” which most people assume to mean, “I will take pleasure in you hating life for the next 30 seconds.” To give some a boost, I’ll use “3… 2… 1… Change the world!” which I picked up from BJ Gaddour. It may be cheesy, but I’m a big believer in addressing the little things.
There are a variety of apps available for iPhones, Androids, and a variety of mp3 players and smartphones. Additionally, you can use a separate timing unit, like the Gym Boss Interval timer, or if you’re training near your computer, use a website like Online-Stopwatch.com, which offers an interval timer:
Aside from dedicated strength training, interval based conditioning is one of the most effective ways for you to create a metabolic environment that stays ‘on’ as much as possible, allowing your body to make the most of the fuel you put into it (food) so that it performs better, builds muscle, and burns fat. I’m wrapping up this post with a video from BodyRock.tv for three reasons:
- Zuzana is using a GymBoss Interval Timer to control her work/rest periods.
- Zuzana is using an Ultimate Sandbag and body weight exercises for a workout full of ‘functional’ exercise that seems to be really fun.
- Zuzana has awesome abs.