Speed Up Your Exercise Program to Burn More Calories and Have Fun

Is the same old exercise routine boring you?  Have you been thinking about exercising again but you can’t get motivated? Perhaps you quit exercise because you didn’t enjoy it? Consider trying an exercise program called high intensity interval training (HIIT). It sounds scary but it is fun and takes your physical condition into consideration. HIIT workouts burn more calories after a session is over than other traditional workouts. Interval training has been around for as long as there has been sports, but interspersing very short burst of speed while monitoring your heart rate (HR) is something new for most recreational exercisers.

With HIIT training you typically work at a high intensity for a few minutes and then ease off for a few minutes during recovery until you have burned through a total of about 30 minutes. You can use a bike, walk, run, or however you want to move major muscle groups continuously.  You may begin your first interval working at 70% of your maximum HR and set a goal to work at a higher HR each sprint interval until you are working at about 90% of maximum HR. Your HR should drop to 40 -50 % of max HR during recovery. Be sure and use an accurate HR monitor like the ones found on this website: https://www.androidauthority.com/best-heart-rate-monitor-watches-757725/.

This type of workout gives you great aerobic fitness and makes a game out of hitting your HR goal so the time flies by.  If you are 40 or older and out of shape, have bone or joint problems, are high risk for or have cardiovascular disease or have high blood pressure, a doctor’s clearance is advised.  There are medications that may make your HR an inaccurate way to access your workout (see below). The Talk Test is a way of accessing how hard you are working if checking HR is not an option (see below).

The best method for estimating your target HR zone includes using resting HR.  Measure resting HR before you get out of bed in the morning.  The following is an example of how to estimate target HR zone and perform a HIIT workout:

Joy is a 50-year-old woman with a resting pulse of 62. She uses her age and resting HR in this formula to determine the upper and lower end of her target HR zone.

220 (maximum HR for everyone) – 50 (age) – 62 (resting HR) = 108

108 (70%, lower end of the zone) + 50 = 125.6 bpm (beats per minute)

108 (90%, higher end of the zone) + 50 = 147.2 bpm

Joy chooses to ride a stationary bike for her 30 minute HIIT workout.  She is wearing a Polar H10 heart monitor with a chest strap. She chooses to do a 3-minutes on, 3-minutes off workout. On another day, she may mix up the length of the sprint and recovery times. She warms-up with an easy 3-minutes of cycling. She then bikes hard enough to get her HR up to around 126 bpm (her lower zone range) during a 3-minutes push followed by 3-minutes of recovery cycling.  She repeats the 3-minutes sprints  a total of 5 times with 3-minutes of recovery cycling between sprints. Joy aims for a higher pulse with each sprint interval until she reaches her upper goal of around 150 bpm. She ends with 3 minutes of recovery.

The goal setting makes the time fly by and gives you an incredible workout.  Your sprint interval should be uncomfortable but not painful.  As you get in better shape you will find that you can push your heart muscle and your cardiovascular system harder and recover faster and still stay within your HR range.

If you’re taking any prescription or over-the-counter drug, you should know whether it affects your heart rate when exercising.  Beta-blockers, prescribed for patients with heart problems and high blood pressure, anti-arrhythmic drugs, calcium channel blockers, and other medications can sometimes reduce exercise heart rate. Other drugs like thyroid medication, Ritalin and other amphetamines, and even caffeine, which is found in certain cold remedies, pain relievers, and drinks may raise the heart rate. In situations where medication significantly reduces the heart rate, the best suggestion is to work with a cardiologist or other healthcare professional familiar with exercise physiology who can help further individualize a drug’s optimal dose, and your exercise program.

 If checking HR is not an option, you can use the Talk Test to help determine how hard you are exercising. If you can easily carry on a conversation with an exercise partner, then you are working at a moderate level and that is a good place to start. You will need to increase the intensity of the exercise to the point where talking becomes difficult during the sprint part of your exercise.  Talking under your breath does not count; for the Talk Test to be effective, you must speak aloud. When you are unable to complete a sentence without catching your breath, your cardiovascular fitness is improving.

For more information on HIIT training, check out this American College of Sports Medicine website:


Enjoy the ride!

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