January is almost over, so I’m starting to think about finding a new exercise regime.
I like to wait until everyone else has given up on their New Year’s resolutions before committing to anything. As I approach official middle age, I realize that 2013 has to be the year I whip my pear-shaped, post-baby (times three) body into shape. And with all the articles about sitting being the latest epidemic -- sitting is the new smoking and all that -- I realize that sitting and smoking simultaneously is probably not the best way to go. So I’m looking for renewal.
But as I look to define the new me -- the healthier, more fit me -- the almost middle-aged me isn’t quite sure where to begin.
Besides the inherent psychological difficulty in taking that first step, a big part of the problem is also that there are so many choices available. I’m wary of committing to something financially before I’ve taken careful time -- possibly over coffee and/or red wine, while sitting, of course -- to examine all the options.
There’s a great yoga studio, for example, spitting distance from my house with a $100-per-month unlimited yoga deal on now. It sounds great. And I’m sure my bones and muscles would love me to stretch myself in new ways, never mind the mental boost it would likely provide. But all that stretching and breathing? I wonder if I would get bored after a week or two.
If I spit in the other direction -- you know, from my back door -- there’s a fitness and dance studio with regular, fun aerobic classes like zumba. Everyone tells me this is a really enjoyable way to get your heart rate up. But at $16 per session, I’m not sure it’s within my financial grasp.
And then there’s this really cool place, nowhere near my house, in Gatineau, called PhysXtreme, where a former personal trainer helps whip you into shape by getting you to roll truck tires around and climb fireman poles and such. I have a neighbour that goes for the 6 a.m. workout. She’s super fit and does mud-racing and all kinds of cool things with her muscular, fit body. You’d never know she has two kids and sits in an office all day. The idea of doing a non-traditional workout is extremely appealing, but I wonder how long it would be before I decided I couldn’t be bothered to drive my car to Gatineau twice a week before everyone else’s day begins.
I was about to throw in the towel and give up the whole search when I discovered a new exercise regime that may have been designed for the almost middle-aged me. It’s low-cost; it doesn’t require me to go anywhere; I can do it as frequently as I want and I may not even have to sweat – not for long, in any case.
It’s called high-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short. A body of research around HIIT suggests that short periods of intense exercise may be as effective as lengthy workouts for some people.
The kinesiology department at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., for example, had test subjects do 30-second power pedalling on exercise bikes, interspersed with four minutes of relaxed pedalling. The pattern was repeated four to six times in a session for three sessions per week, a total of about 45 minutes of exercise over the course of the week. Similar studies conducted at universities across Britain and the United States have found this type of exercise may be as effective as a daily cardio workout in reducing insulin and glucose levels, improving metabolism and, in some cases, increasing muscle gain.
The only downside to HIIT is that it could cause major physical injury and/or kill you. Study results are inconclusive. There’s also evidence that it may not benefit people of certain genetic makeup, so short of having blood tests conducted to determine results, it may be all for naught.
Still, I think I’m going to give it a try. As one friend pointed out the other day, “I can commit to anything for 15 minutes, but thinking about doing something for an hour is really hard.”
Yeah. I’m a big believer in baby steps. HIIT may just be my foray into extreme mud racing. I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I have to go upstairs and refill my coffee. It may be the only physical stimulation I get today and it’s only 6 a.m.