There’s a lot of talk about intense exercise lately, specifically HIIT or “high-intensity interval training.”
With names like INSANITY, P90X, CrossFit, and KillerDeathForce2000, you know these workouts mean business (okay, I may have made up that last one).
As someone with knee arthritis, some days my joints hurt just thinking about HIIT.
No joke. Yesterday I hurt my left knee (which has been fairly pain-free up until now) while doing crunches.
Yes, crunches, where you lie on a bench and curl up using your abs — nothing to do with your legs.
I don’t know if I got up the wrong way off the bench or what, but I limped out of the gym as if I’d just finished training with Ronda Rousey.
Lately, my knees seem to enjoy surprising me with painful antics when I least expect it. For example, they also emit a painful “pop” while I’m doing a standing exercise like biceps curls. Again, I’m standing and not even moving my legs.
Oh, those knees are such silly pranksters.
But seriously, what gives?
My doctor tells me (an MRI confirmed that yes, my knees are totally shot and I’ll likely need a replacement in the future) it’s osteoarthritis (OA).
I can’t speak for everyone with OA, but I feel as if someone’s removed my knee joint and replaced it with a Tinker Toy.
Remember the wooden circles and sticks we played with as kids? (Yes, I’m showing my age, but that hasn’t exactly been a mystery up until now.)
Clearly, that was circa the Jurassic Era, eons before the Internet, smartphones and Pokémon Go were even a thing.
We did crazy things like “play outside.”
It’s a miracle we survived with all those dinosaurs roaming around.
But I digress.
Back to HIIT.
HIIT refers to workouts that involve intervals of high-intensity, all-out, effort alternating with easier, lower intensity bouts of “rest.”
This alternating high-low effort produces something called EPOC, which sounds like a Star Wars character but is actually short for “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.”
In simple terms, HIIT produces an “after burner” effect where your body continues to burn excess calories above and beyond the norm as it powers down and works to return your body to your pre-exercise state.
As a result, you burn more calories doing HIIT than you would a steady-state workout.
EPOC explains why you continue sweating after a tough workout even after you’ve showered.
(SIDE NOTE: Have you tried my FREE 7-Day Ageless Body Challenge, yet? If not sign up HERE to get started today!)
The good thing about HIIT is you can adjust it to your fitness level by altering the times and rest periods of your intervals, which changes the overall intensity.
HIIT on a treadmill, for example, can include a fast walk on the “high intensity” end if you’re a beginner, or an all-out run if you’re very fit and your joints can handle it.
In addition to cardio HIIT workouts, you can also trigger EPOC by circuit training without traditional cardio.
The key: Use little to no rest between sets.
That, my Ageless friend, is what makes it hard. This rapid pace keeps your heart rate up similarly to doing cardio.
Problem is, some of the HIIT exercises aren’t great for those of us with less-than-perfect joints.
Take Mountain Climbers for example. These require good core stability along with upper and lower body strength – and they’re super exhausting if you do them for more than two seconds.
So even though they make a great addition to a HIIT circuit training program, MCs aren’t always doable for a lot of us over-50 chicks or beginners.
With that in mind, I created this sample HIIT program. You can do it whether you’re a beginner or advanced exerciser by using the various modifications…
1. WARM-UP: Walk/jog in place (or substitute your choice of cardio): 3 to 5 minutes
2. STEP-UPS or squats: 30 to 60 seconds
3. PUSH-UPS (wall, chair or floor): 30 seconds or until fatigue (you can’t do a single more rep in good form)
4. MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS (modified): 30 seconds
5. CHAIR DIPS: 30 seconds or until fatigue
6. LOWER ABS ON CHAIR: 30 seconds or until fatigue
— Rest briefly, then repeat 2 to 3 times.
How’d you do? Did you try the modified Mountain Climber?
Let me know in the comments section below… and please share this with your friends!
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Got questions or ideas for a future post? Send ’em to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Ageless Body Coach,
Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.