I received a copy of the book to review
Maybe you don’t know this about me, but I worked in a gym as a fitness instructor for almost nine years. Back then, in my classes, I never thought about working smarter, but harder: I was basically focused on getting my clients the sweatiest they could be within an hour of aerobics, steps, cycling, etc. That’s what they demanded, too, feeling their time was worthy by achieving that sweaty goal. Only some guys at the weight-lifting room would try different techniques to improve their muscle gain by controlling their sessions at the gym and their food intake to crazy-to-me levels.
But it turns out if you want certain results, you have to educate yourself and work smarter, right?
Back then I was working out for 20 hours per week. The time I was not exercising, I would eat insane amounts of every food available, including ice-cream, pastries and junk food. I was thin, lean, as hard as a rock. And perpetually exhausted.
That should have told me something, but there are things you can only acknowledge in retrospect. When I left that job, I couldn’t dedicate all that time to exercise anymore, so I did (and still do) what’s recommended -three to five sessions a week- while trying to eat less even though I was −and I am– hungry all the time (spoiler alert: when you stop exercising you are as hungry as before; your stomach is an independent entity altogether).
And, while all the blood and cardiovascular tests show I am an extremely healthy person, I am overweight. And it’s not that I say so; the doctor has told me I should lose some weight. But I can’t. And it’s kind of frustrating when you swim three times per week, run two times per week, go everywhere by foot, eat less than your stomach would like to… and still you don’t look good. The only thing that comes to mind is “maybe I should eat even less or run for 15 minutes more”, coming back to what I said about focusing on quantity instead of quality.
A few months ago, YouTube “recommended” me a HIIT (High Intensity Intervals Training) video. I tried it out and was amazed: I could only do half of it and I felt that my body couldn’t have been worked more intensely in those 20 minutes. That was when the book I am reviewing today (yes, all this was only the prelude of a book review) came into the picture to help me understand this kind of training better and schedule my own routines.
The first half of the books is dedicated to biology and physiology and includes data and research to better understand how the body works during and after exercise, focusing on HIIT in particular and what the benefits of this training are. For those of you who have already tried it, you would have noticed that you can do much more in less time, but it also helps improve cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and cardiorespiratory fitness faster than other kinds of training.
There is a section dedicated to help you stick with your exercise program, for which I really recommend you read James Clear’s Atomic habits in order to better approach a change in your daily routines either to include exercise or any other new habit. There are also frequently asked questions that I found very informative –“Can I reduce the number of fat cells in my body? No.” I’m still crying over this–. And, at the end of the book, there is advice on how to cut calories with small changes – I can’t apply the majority of them, since I hardly ever eat out, I don’t drink sodas or alcohol, nor do I have sugar with my coffee, etc.
Finally, we have the HIIT workouts. I like that the author recommends reducing your normal workouts and add HIIT ones instead of increasing the total amount of weekly exercise, which was what I had in mind when I started reading the book, and had an exponential increase in anxiety because you don’t really know if you will ever find the time to do it all.
Regarding the workouts themselves, I found them very beginner-like, thought to be done only with a certain exercise mode instead of creating different exercises for every interval, which is what I have been trying lately and found more enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong – I truly believe they are good workouts, but doing running work and recovery intervals is what I have always called “Interval Training”, but not “High Intensity Interval Training”. I know you can increase the intensity, of course, but I guess I was expecting something more like this.
I think the book is primarily targeted towards people who hasn’t developed a steady habit of exercising, so they can start by including these short but effective workouts in their weekly routines and get fast results. For the rest, the book will make you aware of those intervals you only did from time to time and how it is better to focus more often on them without increasing the total amount of time devoted to exercise, in order to achieve your aimed weight and fitness level.
In any case, it is a matter of adapting your routines. I will sure change more of my steady-state running, swimming and walking workouts to intervals, and I will also keep an eye on including different high intensity exercises a couple of days per week.
And now it’s time to start exercising!
HIIT your limit. High Intensity Interval Training for fat loss, cardio, and full body health
Dr. Len Kravitz