Respect Your Intervals

Yesterday was a solid day for me; I got lots of writing done, had a solid workout, listened to three episodes of The FitCast and The Strength Coach Podcast while driving, and crushed a Chipotle salad for dinner.  By the time I got home, I wanted to check up on the interwebz and get to sleep.  Thankfully, some good folks reminded me of the evenings’ presidential debate, and I was able to boot up the telly in the nick of time.

I’ll leave the political commentary to those who get paid to confuse facts and opinions, but I was excited to see lots of political chatter on the FaceBooks last night.  Regardless of your belief system, which candidate you like more, or which candidate sucks less, do your grandparents and future grandchildren a favor and vote come November.  We tend to forget that President Obama and Mitt Romney are two regular dudes, and they make the same mistake as the rest of us.  Last night it was glaringly obvious that both men suck at timing their intervals:

Jim Lehrer let the debate turn into a CrossFit ‘Chipper’ workout, casually ignoring the clock as the candidates had their way with words.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when it comes to your training, don’t let Jim Lehrer run the show, and definitely don’t let Paul Ryan, Mr. P90X himself, do it.  If you set the timer and then don’t use it, why would you set it in the first place?
The first time I touched on keeping yourself honest with an interval timer, I was specifically thinking about work ratio, as we typically cut into our work time during intervals.  Today, let’s discuss what the candidates did not do last night, which is following the damn clock and resting when appropriate.

Programs such as P90X, CrossFit, and Insanity are known for the “metabolic conditioning” aspect of the programs, or whatever the companies have a copyright on.  Most of the time, this includes a go-as-hard-as-you-can mentality, and turns anaerobic interval training into high intensity aerobic training.

There’s a big difference there.  (Hint:  It’s the anaerobic part.)  If you’re just blowing through your rest intervals like Forest Gump goes through chocolate, you’re not going to have a good time.  Coach Dos discusses this in his blog post, “Our Complete Misunderstanding of HIIT Once Again“:

We don’t need to be continuously jogging, doing jumping jacks, running from station to station to reap the benefits of anaerobic training, in fact, this often TAKES AWAY from the effectiveness if the workout!

Sure, it may seem more effective or badass to be slinging weights around or going as hard as you possibly can…if your intention is shear bad-assery, well, that’s cool, babygirl, do your thing, but you’ll be lucky if you drop as much fat as you wanted to, and improved fitness the way you intended.

Allowing yourself the time to rest allows for favorable metabolic adaptations, and you’ll improve recovery heart rate, or how quickly your rate rate drops (in a given time frame) after exercise.  In many cases, focusing on recovery from training is going to be more beneficial than simply considering how how long you’re working for.

When in doubt, work harder, and rest harder.

During recent training sessions, I’ve noticed that several of my clients find it difficult to balance between very hard work and rest for the intention of rest; they first struggle with the high intensity activity, then are keen to rushing their rest and getting back to work.  I’ve found that by manipulating the work interval or lying to them about the time left so they work harder and then strategically talking or using a talk test to slow them down works very well.  Crap, now they know it’s on purpose…

Whether it be talking about their grandchildren, HTML code, or why the real estate market on Long Island is rough, I’m really just using a talk test on the basis that if they’re talking, their heart rates have dropped low enough that we’re achieving the desired physical effect.

It’s likely that I’m not there to slow you down by discussing the wonders of 3am D.P.Dough, so I’ll recommend using an interval timer or a heart rate monitor to keep track of your training.  It will help you maximize your physiological response to achieve the best results possible.

Let me leave you with this gigantic interval-based infographic from the good folks over at Greatist.  In the spirit of the post, I’d suggest reading one section, taking a break, and then picking up at the next one.  Check your heart rate in between sets:

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