Ok, perhaps the title of this one is a little "OTT" (over the top).
However, there is a great myth surrounding interval training at this point in the fitness industry, thanks to the latest trend taking the industry by storm, group training.
These group training facilities are taking every exercise known to man - and turning them into 'high intensity interval training' sessions - without even conforming to the basic definition of interval training.
Interval training, to my mind, is performing bouts of maximal intensity exercise, intertwined with bouts of rest, long enough so you can go maximal again.
In studies, interval training is typically defined by intense periods of exercise (above 92% max heart rate), with periods of rest.
One of the more famous styles of interval training is the Tabata method. This method is used in every group training environment in the country - however I doubt any of the coaches preaching the benefits of this protocol has ever even read the study!
Izumi Tabata conducted this study in 1996, and it really was ground breaking stuff at the time.
Tabata got 2 groups of subjects;
Group 1 did moderate intensity training, long duration, and they trained 5 days a week at 70% of their VO2 max, for 60 minutes.
Group 2 did 5 days a week of training as well, however, 4 of those days were at 170% VO2 max, with an interval protocol of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds recovery, repeated 8 times (4 minutes).
The 5th day they performed 30 minutes of training at 70% VO2 max, plus 4 repeats of the 20:10 protocol.
This was repeated for 6 weeks:
The results of the study are outlined below. As you can see, Group 1 achieved a 10% increase in aerobic capacity, with no change in anaerobic capacity.
Group 2, however, achieved a 15% increase in aerobic capacity, plus a whopping 23% increase in anaerobic capacity.
Now if you do the math, group 2 only trained for 48 minutes during the week!
Absolutely it is. However;
To get the same benefit proven from the Tabata protocol, you must train at the same intensity as the subjects in the study trained.
That means training at 170% VO2 max. Possible, yes. Achievable, unlikely.
And definitely not achievable doing 20 seconds of push ups or sit ups!
Back to interval training in general:
Interval training has been well researched and have been shown to produce rapid and marked gains in fitness and they expend huge amounts of energy both during and after the session, which goes a long way towards burning through unwanted fat stores.
Intervals are also an incredibly efficient way to train for the time poor, or those that don't enjoy exercise. Training for 20 minutes is much more appealing than training for 60 minutes, right?
However, one must remember:
To get the same benefit proven from interval training, you must train at the same intensity as the subjects in the studies have trained.
And that means training bloody hard.
Intervals aren't designed to be an enjoyable form of exercise. Remember, they are bouts of maximal intensity exercise. Often, subjects in studies done on interval training report feeling nauseous and even vomiting after the sessions.
However, the benefits of this style of training are profound and quite honestly, fascinating. Done correctly, interval training is an incredibly effective way to maximize energy expenditure, improve fitness and other health markers.
Do you feel like you need help with interval training programming? Just ask!
The concept of Evexia Wellbeing has been playing on my mind for the past couple of years.
I've always had the idea of creating an elite, beautiful, welcoming fitness centre that smells nice and can also function as an elite training centre.
I think it's a cool concept, merging two previously unrelated models together.
Like most, I like nice things. I love the feeling of walking into a beautiful hotel, and one of my biggest inspirations for the entire feel of the business was The Langham hotel in Melbourne.
After brewing on this idea for years, there came a time in my life that it was either going to come to a reality, or it wasn't. I had to make the call - do you jump of the deep end and chase your dream - or live in the comfort and security of everyday work?
My partner at the time pushed me to take the jump - and take the jump I did.
Along with the concept of design and functionality, I had to choose a direction for the business model to take. With the current trend being so into group training, I made the call to do the complete opposite - not offer group training at all. Business wise, it probably doesn't make too much sense. Morally, however, I know that model isn't the way forward in the industry and it doesn't get the best results.
So I stuck with my beliefs and focused on 1 on 1 personal training, nutrition coaching, and wellness coaching.
The name Evexia comes from the Greek word meaning "wellbeing". When I laid eyes on the name for the first time, I knew it was the one. It personifies everything that the business believes in.
I have always felt there is a missing link in the chain between exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress management, recovery, mobility etc etc.
We usually focus on one or two aspects of health, but what about the others?
Who has the time (or money) to spend seeing 3 or 4 different health professionals to sort their health out?
Creating a space where people can get help in all aspects of health is something that I am so proud of.
It's difficult to believe that in less than 2 weeks, months (even years) of hard work will be realized when the facility officially opens its doors.
Emotions are bound to run wild as this is - down to my very core - something that I truly believe in. Not a single aspect of this business has been created by half-measure. If I can't provide it properly, I don't provide it at all.
I cannot wait to share this journey with you, but most of all, I cannot wait to see the change in your mind and body from working together.
To most people, getting in great shape is all about exercise. As in crunches, push ups and cardio. The harder, and the more often, the better - right?
What people tend to forget is that there is so much more to the human body than 'workouts'.
I've always been fascinated by this little calculation:
Provided you sleep for 8 hours per night, you are left with 112 waking hours per week. If you train for, say, 3 hours per week - what's happening in the other 109 hours?
As humans, we have been designed to move. However, in 2017, physical activity has been engineered out of our lives - we are literally constantly searching for ways to make things easier, less strenuous, faster. What an amazing paradox.
We sit in a car on the way to work. At work, we sit at a desk for much of the day, then come home to relax on the couch. Sure, we may throw in a 45 minute boot camp training session into that - but aren't we missing the point?
Unfortunately, this current focus on exercise, and not movement, results in a few negative side effects;
1) Adherence issues, particularly long term adherence.
2) Niggling injuries - you know, like the creaky knees, sore shoulders and that lower back pain.
When we aren't focused on movement, and instead on just making it to the next gym class, we aren't actually learning how to become more active throughout the day. We aren't actually taking advantage of those 109 hours in the week - and it's what we do in these hours - not in the 3 hours that we 'work out' - that will determine our result.
Surprisingly, there's nothing magic about the boot camp style class or the latest trendy training method.
For some, they work wonders.
But for the majority, it leaves them in a negative headspace, exhausted, and injured.
Your result isn't about what you do in your 3 hours per week in the gym or in your boot camp.
It's about what you do in the other 109 hours.
I am so excited to be launching my boutique studio on September 1st.
I have been in the industry for 10 years, in which time I have been "testing" my methods on real clients to see what works, and what doesn't.
The final product is the best I could ever imagine.
Register your interest here:
I have worked with trainers and other health professionals in the past who have recommended diet after diet, training program after training program, and quite literally, riding the wave of trends. One that stands out, for example, is a diet consisting of no carbohydrates, no dairy, and no coffee - and daily exercise consisting of 60 minutes of either high volume weights training, or running. Now, I don't know how many of you have tried eliminating carbohydrates from your diet, but it's awful. Add dairy to that, and then add coffee - and suddenly you are not a very pleasant person to be around!
Ironically, these outrageous meal and exercise plans recommended by the trainer never actually resulted in the trainer being a “healthy” person. In fact, this particular trainer yo-yo'd in weight just as much as any client I have ever seen.
Speaks measures, doesn't it?
There is a point to this story, and the point isn't simply declaring my dislike for outrageous nutrition and exercise plans.
The point is, this is the very thing that is holding us all back from achieving great long-term results.
“I'm just on a break from my nutrition plan, but once I get back into it, I'll be good again”.
I cannot tell you how often I have heard someone say something along these lines to me. It's so common, I am usually finishing their sentence for them!
Most people think they need to do some kind of Herculean, enormous, epic effort to accomplish a goal, and when they're not doing that effort - they think that is their fault - like it's some kind of personal weakness of willpower or discipline. Of course, people think that because thats the way we have been programmed, and if we can't white-knuckle our way through a restrictive meal plan, we are weak or lazy.
Unfortunately, people don't actually draw the connection between the fact that the thing that they believe "works", is the same thing thats causing them to fail. This is so hard for people to understand because it requires you to flick the switch between short, mid and long-term consequences.
In the case of the trainer above, they recommended daily intense exercise, and this sucky no carb, no dairy, no coffee diet - where you are eliminating whole food groups.
All this teaches you is to white-knuckle through this deprived, epic effort (when life is perfect) - and thats the skill you learn.
You learn that in order to get results, you must be in the perfect life situation, free from holidays, work stress, injury, illness, time restrictions, lack of motivation, etc.
The skill you never learn, is how to continue under any set of life circumstances.
I don't know about you, but life is never perfect. Life is busy, life is stressful, and things happen every single day that tempt us to throw away our perfect meal plan and eat whatever and whenever we like.
People always take on projects that are much bigger than they are capable of doing, and they do them on their best days only. They then only build the skill of going really hard, when its possible to go really hard, and they never build the skill of figuring out how to maintain or even make progress when life is, how life is.
Let's take a look at the concept of "Always something, versus all or nothing".
It's this idea that you're not going hard or doing nothing, it's that you're going to do always something, a little something every day.
In the context of diet, that might mean, don't get rid of whole food groups, just figure out how to eat moderately on any given day of the week so you can sustain this over the holidays, or when life gets stressful.
When it comes to exercise, what if you could find an exercise program that only took 10 minutes per day, 4 times per week, instead an hour of running every single day?
This advice isn't particularly sexy - but to every single person thats yo-yo’d, be it a woman thats done weight watchers, or a man who was in shape in his 20’s, but is now trying to figure out what happened - every single person that has been through these ups and downs, knows what I'm talking about.
The problem is, it's really hard to connect the dots. We are programmed not to make this association, and we are lead to believe that we aren't getting results due to a personal deficiency, because we are weak, or because we are lazy.
The men in their mid 30’s, who say “if only i had the time to work out like i did in my 20’s, I wouldn't be so fat!”
You see - this isn't your personal deficiency, this is the fact that what you did in your 20’s never taught you the skill on how to do this!
The reality isn't that your weak, and it's not about needing to get back on the wagon, and it's certainly not about following a strict regime that you can only follow for certain periods of your life.
These yo-yo trends are the exact consequence of these behaviours, and the reality is that you chose something - you learned something - that you can't possibly do during most of your life.
And thats what you have to fix, not your schedule, but what your putting your faith in “works”.
Let me start by stating, this is a completely different way of thinking to what is currently the norm within the fitness industry. Controversial to some, genius to others - but if we don't challenge our thought process, nothing will change, right?
And boy, do we need a change.
Let me begin by introducing the obese Zucker rat.
Since the 1970's, scientists have been completing exercise studies on rats within the laboratory.
As a measure of research, scientists have created a genetically obese strain of the Zucker rat, called the obese Zucker rat.
This type of rat hates exercise, genetically.
When exercise studies are done on rats, they are put on a treadmill-like apparatus with a shock grid at the back. When the rat stops exercising, it gets a shock, and quickly scurries back onto the treadmill. This is because the shock is more unpleasant than the exercise, right?
When the rat stays on the shock grid, and they can't exercise anymore, this is fatigue.
When the obese Zucker rat is put in a study alongside a "normal" Zucker rat, the obese Zucker rat simply sits on the shock grid. It would rather be shocked repeatedly than exercise! They literally sit on the shock grid instead of walking on the treadmill.
So where am I going with this?
This may sound harsh - but bear with me.
I think, as a trainer, it would benefit me to think of people more like the obese Zucker rat, than of the exercise loving rats. Why? Well, I don't think it is any secret that as humans, as animals, we are exercising less and less.
And, as a result, we are willing to face all kinds of unpleasant consequences over doing it. You know, like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, creaky joints, metabolic disorders, etc.
So how on earth do you coach someone that hates exercise so much, they would rather struggle through life with these issues? How do you walk them along the path?
This is where the point I'm trying to make starts. It's called coaching.
It's looking at each individual, and thinking, "maybe this person isn't just choosing to be lazy, but maybe they have a host of genetic and environmental factors preventing them from getting any pleasure out of exercise at all?"
Here lays the difference between an expert and a coach.
An expert thinks they need to know the next step for every person. An expert thinks they have the "treasure map" set - follow this exercise plan and this eating plan and you will get the best results. Don't follow it - it's your fault for being lazy, lacking willpower, or you're broken.
An expert will also give a client the next step based on what they would do. However, this is probably too hard, not what the client wants to do, and therefore not going to work.
As a trainer (or a proclaimed expert), you cannot empathise with people that don't like exercise, because you do! So instead of trying, pretending, or trying to force your lifestyle and love of exercise onto them, there needs to be this acceptance as to where they are at right now.
In contrast, a coach finds a way to collaborate with the individual. They help the client find their own unique path, instead of trying to force them along someone else's path.
At Evexia Wellbeing, we don't try to be experts in every field. Instead, we have developed a series of best practices, so that we are able to confidently, safely, and individually assist every person with whatever aspect of health they are struggling with the most.
We have worked so hard to create a team of "lifestyle concierges" - a group of health professionals who are able to provide support on any area of health - be it stress, exercise, nutrition, recovery, mindset etc.
As I mentioned at the top of the article, this is a different way of thinking within the fitness industry. But it is time that change is introduced, and client care is made priority number one.
Almost all of us eat too fast, with too many distractions around us. It's hard not to - we have to feed the kids, rush between work obligations, multitask, catch up on the latest news, the list goes on.
We are busy. Time is money.
Australians in particular are not very good at consciously making time to eat slowly and mindfully. Many of us pride ourself on our fast-paced, hard-working culture while we scoff our food down at our desk or in the car.
Without doubt, this is a real problem in our society.
When we eat too quickly, or without full attention, we miss important hunger and fullness cues, along with other cues, such as how certain foods make us feel.
We also become unaware of how much food we are eating, and as we are eating so quickly, we 'miss' the signals from our body telling us that we are full - leading to an excess of energy intake.
Also, if we get used to eating while doing other things, we start to feel like we should be eating when we do those things. A perfect example is at the movies - who hasn't noticed those people that devour an entire meals worth of popcorn and chocolates before the movie even starts?!
The habit of eating slowly makes you more mindful of what foods are going in your mouth, the volume of food that is going in, and how those foods make you feel, physically.
So how can we get around this habit?
1) Set a meal timer. Time how long it takes you to eat a meal, and record a baseline for a few different meals. For example, do you eat breakfast particularly quickly? Do you eat a carbohydrate dominant meal more quickly than a protein dominant meal?
Once you've identified interesting data from timing yourself, it's time to act. If you eat dinner in 4 minutes, aim for 6. If you eat breakfast in 6 minutes, aim for 8.
Somewhere around the 8-10 minute mark per meal is the sweet spot.
2) Do something in between bites. This is a fantastic way to become more mindful of how much you're eating. For example, in between bites, you could;
- Set down your utensils
- Take a breath (or three)
- Take a sip of water
- Engage in the table conversation (fancy that!)
3) 'Wine taste' your food. This will appear odd to many, but it is a fantastic trick I learnt from one of my clients. When we taste fancy wine, we search for the flavours and let it sit in our mouth, being conscious and savouring it. Try the same with food. Chew it slowly, smell it, savour it, and enjoy it.
4) Eat without distractions, such as the TV, newspaper, mobile phones or laptops. This is often a surprisingly difficult task, so try just one meal per day, and build from there.
5) Pace yourself to the slowest eater. If you're with a group of people, find the slowest eating person and match their speed. My brother is the worlds slowest eater, so it works well for me at family gatherings. Kids are often great too, as they are bite - then play.
6) Be mindful of what affects your eating habits. Is it who you are eating with? Is it when you eat? Is it the types of foods you are eating? Is it a location in which you are eating? Being mindful of all these factors will help put the pieces of the puzzle together and really help change this habit.
Whilst definitely not uncommon, eating too quickly could be a major factor holding you back from achieving great results. This is the basis for habit based change - the key to long term success.
Drew is a personal trainer and nutritionist and is the co-founder of Evexia Wellbeing. Drew specialises in long-term habit change, body composition training, and mindset.