Spring is in the air and the warmer weather is definitely an added incentive to step outside and get more exercise. With busy lives it can be a little difficult, however, to manage schedules and make time for a lengthy workout… How, then, to maximise the ‘return on investment’ for those precious minutes you’re really able to be active each day? Lately sports scientists have been dedicating much of their research to discovering what’s the most time-effective way to improve one’s fitness level — much of the emphasis being placed on how efficient and effective overall our training actually is. Research has also identified the added benefits of sticking to a regular programme of fitness: focusing on regular workouts, however short, can deliver additional improvements in our athletic abilities and proves especially rewarding.
Now the good news — while spending lots of time on long runs is highly enjoyable, it’s not necessarily the best way to improve fitness when looked at purely from the perspective of efficiency: there are other ways to make gains that are quicker. Shorter efforts are ideal for those with little spare time to dedicate to a training regime. Personal trainers are increasingly guiding those of us lacking free time to exercise but looking to boost fitness levels to High-Intensity Interval Training. HIIT (also sometimes shortened to just ‘HIT’) refers to physical exercise that is characterised by short, intermittent bursts of energetic activity that encourages powerful muscular contractions, interspersed with periods of rest or lower-intensity exercises. HIIT is a recommended mode of training to increase your physical capability by increasing endurance, agility and strength — all while adding a little extra flexibility too.
HIIT is also a great way of working out for sports such as trail running, as the changes of intensity mimic your level of engagement, exercise level and movements in adapting to the challenges of different terrain types (or responding to others’ bursts of acceleration in trail races!) — one minute you’re on a more comfortable pace, the next minute running like a hare! High-intensity interval training can therefore help you prepare you for these kinds of manoeuvres. A further benefit of HIIT is that it has been shown to encourage weight loss: exercising vigorously burns more calories than what you would get on a regular exercise and leads to a higher level of fat burning. This way of training can be a better alternative for your cardio when you haven’t much time.
By pushing yourself a little harder you can train your body and adapt gradually to strain and harder workouts. It’s important though to remember that getting out and enjoying the outdoors should be a fun pursuit — any form of exercise is better than a total lack of it. We’re not always in the mood to really push ourselves after a hard day at the office or taking care of the kids. In that case, just getting a gentler work out that’s less intense still brings rewards, making our heart pump faster than usual and increasing the calories burnt. Exercising, especially in nature, has been shown to make us happier and bring a sense of wellbeing — reason enough!
Of course, as with any exercise regime, you should take the time to transition to a more demanding regime and take care to listen to your body — be careful and stop any activities immediately that cause pain or discomfort. Be kind to your body — and enjoy spring! Julia