WARNING: HIIT is Highly Addictive

A US Marine Doing Pull-ups.

My wise nine year old son asked the other day, “What’s the difference between a habit and an addiction?”  Taken completely off guard, I stumbled for a minute then started to think out loud.

Well, a habit is generally something you do that is good for you, like brushing your teeth after meals or doing your daily body maintenance exercises (got to drive it home while they’re young).  An addiction is generally something a person does repeatedly – usually in excess, which in the end causes them harm.

We came up with a few more examples for each and then left the thought behind. But of course our conversation provoked for me a little blog post.  I’ve said it before, but sometimes we need to hear the same philosophy from various perspectives.  What if our healthy habit of exercise turns into one of addiction? Meanwhile, the opposite is a concern for many…difficulty developing the habit in the first place, more on that another time.

Healthy Habit of Exercise = Increased Level of Fitness, Flexibility, Strength, Endurance, better sleep pattern and food choices, Active Living, etc.

Addiction to Healthy Exercise= Increased Level of Fitness + Chronic Injury/ Pain + Symptoms of Overtraining etc. Click Marks Daily Apple to read more about symptoms of overtraining.

But what if it’s not really an addiction to exercise, but rather enthusiasm?  How do we differentiate?  Well, all of this is obviously subjective – enthusiasm can very easily morph undetected…usually those around us see our symptoms long before we see them for ourselves.

When I first started transitioning from doing my hour and a half long workouts at the gym to doing HIIT at home exclusively, I had a difficult time accepting that anything under 40 minutes would or could be enough.  After a month or so I shortened my training sessions even further to 20 minutes, and because I was getting stronger with each workout and working at such maximal effort, I was ok with the change to shorter workout times.  The short-high-intensity workouts satisfied my ‘workout high’.

But then, there was a time when I had brought the workouts down to 12 minutes and I felt so energized from them that I just didn’t want the workout to be over. So I would do another 4 Minute Tabata to top it up. Or I would do HIIT workouts five days in a row – eager for the next day so I could get my 12 minute workout in.

I only had to do this a few times to realize that I was missing the point of what HIIT could offer.

When I was playing soccer regularly, there was a few times that after having played an hour of fast paced soccer I would then come home to do a short HIIT workout. For me that was the sign that I had crossed the line. Exercising in excess would lead to overuse and injury…I felt them (overuse and injury, that is) knocking at my door. What I ended up doing instead of a HIIT workout was to come home and stretch (Yoga) – a much healthier pattern. Lucky for me I generally only make the same mistake a few times before I change my pattern…unfortunately, there are countless opportunities for making new mistakes waiting for me at every turn.  (Actually, I honestly think making mistakes is terrific, it is our greatest teacher).

Today was another opportunity to listen to my truth and not my ego. Zuzka Light is back on YouTube – Zuzka has been taken under the wing of Darren Copik from Watch It Now Entertainment. She is the original face of BodyRockTv. In September of 2011, Zuzka stepped away from BodyRock to do her own thing (she and Freddy divorced – BodyRock is still going strong under Freddy’s direction and other hosts).

So, I grabbed Zuzka’s first ZWOD (Zuzana’s Workout Of the Day) Bodyweight Only Time Challenge workout, though I had to modify one exercise to suit me. I could have fallen into my old pattern and just used brute force to push through, but just by looking at the line up of exercises I knew that doing 3 Rounds would be excessive for me. So I did 2 Rounds and finished in 14 minutes. Just right.

Here’s what MY version of the workout looks like:

I warm up with 10x flight of stairs (up + down = 1x) by two’s going up + single steps going down (13 steps) + light stretches.

Complete 2 Rounds of the following 9 exercises in sequence as a Time Challenge.

1. Dive Bombers – 10 Reps

2. Burpees – 5 Reps

3. Squat + Side Leg Lift (Alternating sides) – 20 Reps

4. Lunge Back (Alternating sides) – 20 Reps

5. Burpees – 5 Reps

6. Side Plank Lift – 10 Reps Left Side + 10 Reps Right Side

7. Burpees – 5 Reps

8. Pistol Squat – 5 Reps Left Side + 5 Reps Right Side + 5 Reps Left Side + 5 Reps Right Side

9. Burpees – 5 Reps

Cool down with 4 x 100 skips with rope

+ 5 Forward Grip Pull Ups.

Plus 40 Minutes of Ashtanga Yoga Standing Series (including the first 12 seated postures -no vinyasa- + 3 Backbends + closing sequence – no inversions).

Tomorrow I will swim for 30 minutes and do 15 minutes of stretching in the Jacuzzi. I won’t do another HIIT or Yoga till Monday. But, regardless will start my day with stretching in bed (view the Bed Stretches #1 video here), some modified sun salutations – focusing on stretching out hip flexors (iliopsoas), followed by a 4 Minute Morning Week 3 – DAY 7.

Watch the sneak preview of what’s to come from Zuzka Lights new video series:


We all have to start somewhere. And we all have to find the right balance. Whatever you choose, be consistent and be kind to yourself. And most important of all STRETCH your body!

And to see the original workout breakdown and video click here. At :29 seconds there is a pause in the video which shows the breakdown in writing – for anyone who wants to write it out!

What exercise did you do today?

Today’s 10 Minute Workout

A straight flight of stairs, somewhere in the ...

Image via Wikipedia

I couldn’t find a link for this workout at Mark Lauren‘s website so I’m posting it here.

It’s a time challenge.

Only three exercises:

  1. Burpees +
  2. Mountain Climbers +
  3. Jump Lunges (A.K.A: Iron Mikes)
Complete 7 Rounds as fast as possible.
Round 1: Complete 5 Reps of each exercise (i.e. 5 Burpees + 5 MC + 5 Jump Lunges)
Round 2: Complete 10 Reps of each exercise (i.e. 10 Burpees + 10 MC +10 JL etc.)
Round 3: Complete 15 Reps of each exercise
Round 4: Complete 20 Reps of each exercise
Round 5: Complete 15 Reps of each exercise
Round 6: Complete 10 Reps of each exercise
Round 7: Complete 5 Reps of each exercise
My times:
2 August, 2010 –   Time  13 min :53 seconds
5 September, 2011 –  Time  10 min :31 seconds
For my warm-up:
Ran up + down my basement staircase 10 x (12 stairs).  (Up + Down = 1x)
Odd numbers I took the stairs by two’s.  Even numbers I took single steps.
1. by two’s
2. singles
3. by two’s
4. singles etc….up to 10.
Lunge style Hip flexor stretches, side bends, quads etc.
Did Mark Lauren’s workout, as I’ve come to call it.
Once finished it took a long time to get my breath back.  This was a super hard workout.  Walked around for quite some time breathing.
  • Cool down with 4 x 100 skips, still trying to bring my heart rate down gradually.
  • Cool down with 5 minutes on the stationary bike.
  • 5 Forward Grip Pull Ups
  • Full body stretches including rolling out ITB & TFL with foam roll.
Post-workout meal & lunch combined:
Romaine Salad with cherry tomatoes/ red peppers/ broccoli / my salad dressing
4 Slices of Roast Turkey (ingredients: roast turkey, salt –NOT processed)
1 leftover BBQ Sweet potato (fresh from last night) with a pat of unsalted butter.
12 oz. Water.

Use Your Body

Cover of

You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren, is a great reference book.

No need for me to reinvent the wheel.  He has said it all: Why Bodyweight Exercises, Why Strength Training (or Why Cardio Is a Waste of Your Time), Back to Basics Nutrition, Myths, Motivation and Intensity.  These are very short, straight to the point essays so you won’t spend hours reviewing the information.  The rest of the book is filled with bodyweight exercise descriptions including photographs.

Mark Lauren is a certified Military Training Specialist among other qualifications. He knows first hand the necessity for soldiers to be in optimal shape for physically demanding missions.  From solid research and experience he has successfully designed short workouts that support his cause.  His book makes these strategies accessible for all of us.

If you find the books’ practical content a little over your head, you can follow my 4 Minute Mornings’ progressions which will establish a great foundation for strength and flexibility.  My hope is that you will graduate from these progressions feeling confident to tackle any workout program.  Remember, just about anyone can do these exercises; there’s really nothing to it.  Consistency is the real challenge.  If you keep your exercise sessions short you are more likely to practice regularly.

Read You Are Your Own Gym.  Arm yourself with the information and put it into practice.

visit www.marklauren.com

The following are my two favourite bits of research perfectly condensed and described by Mark Lauren.

Izumi Tabata

by MLauren » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:02 pm

Izumi Tabata and his partners at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan, compared the effects of moderate-intensity endurance and High-Intensity Interval Training on maximal aerobic capacity—the best indicator of cardiorespiratory endurance.
They conducted a six week study with two groups of randomly picked males.
Group 1 did one hour of steady state training five days a week. Group 2 did only 4
minutes of Interval Training five days a week.
At the end of the six weeks, Group 1 had an increase in maximal aerobic capacity of 10% and Group 2 had an increase of 14%. Not only did the interval group have a 40% greater gain in aerobic capacity, they had an increase in strength of 28% percent, as opposed to the Steady state group which had no gains in strength. And all this with just four minutes of Interval Training a day.  Similar studies have confirmed that Interval Training produces higher gains in aerobic fitness, greater decreases in body fat, and gains in strength as opposed to the muscle wasting that occurs with much longer sessions of steady state training.
And Cardio vs. High Intensity Interval Training by Mark Lauren

Dr. Angelo Tremblay

by MLauren » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:02 pm

Dr. Angelo Tremblay and his colleagues at the Physical Activities Sciences Laboratory, in Quebec, Canada, tested the popular belief that low-intensity, long-duration exercise is the most effective program for losing fat.

They compared the impact of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and High-Intensity Interval Training on fat loss. Skinfold measurements revealed that the Interval Training group lost more body fat. Moreover, when they took into account the fact that the Interval Training burned less calories during the workouts, the fat loss was 9 times more efficient in that program than in the aerobics program.

In short, the Interval Training group got 9 times more fat-loss benefit for every calorie burned exercising. How can that be? Because, after taking muscle biopsies, measuring muscle enzyme activity, and lipid utilization in the post exercise state, they found that High-Intensity intermittent exercise caused more calories and fat to be burned following the workout. In addition, they found that appetite is suppressed more after intense intervals.

Which Workout Works?

The Tulip Stairs and lantern at the Queen's Ho...

Which Workout Works?

Rodan sent in this great article from last weekends’ The New York Times Magazine.  It is worth reading.


The article asks a range of exercise and sport physiologists to choose THE single best exercise.

Interestingly and really, not surprisingly the physiologists have very different views.

The short version is that all exercise has merit.  However, a strong argument is made for the overall effectiveness of interval training.  Short-Duration, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIT) is great for the time challenged.

The article goes on to say, that yes, “to be effective, HIT must hurt”.  I don’t want this to scare anyone off.  Everyone has a starting point.  Marching on the spot might ‘hurt’ for the absolute sedentary; ‘hurt’ is subjective.  What do they mean by hurt anyway? What I think they mean by ‘hurt’ is discomfort.  It means working hard and passing through the comfort zone to the point where you want to stop, but forcing yourself to finish the repetitions until the interval is over.  This is NOT to be confused with pushing through pain and losing technique just to score high repetitions.  There is a distinct difference between the discomfort caused by muscle fatigue and the pain caused from injury.

When we are consistent with exercise, our body naturally adapts and our ability to take on more increases.

It seems that what hurts the most is digging up the discipline to be consistent with exercising everyday.

Once you make the decision to try something different, I have got a little experiment for you: the stairs.  We all have to climb them and, like at the end of the article, one physiologist sings the praises of “running up steps”.

Find a staircase with approximately twelve steps.  But any number will do.

Make sure the staircase is straight and sturdy (no spirals), has a handrail and is not too steep.  Remember to go at a safe and comfortable pace. You may only climb the stairs once today, twice tomorrow and so on.  Listen to your body.

First, think about your body mechanics as you are climbing the steps.  Remember your feet and the arches.  Now go up the steps at a slow to moderate pace.  Trot back down.  Now go up the steps a little faster.  Trot back down.  Do this four more times.  Regardless of speed, the heart rate and body temperature will rise and breathing will quicken.

When finished, walk around until the heart rate and breathing slows down to normal.  Try it once a day for a week.

Leave me a comment.  I love hearing about your progress.




Global Warming & Climate Change

Change does not always happen right away.  For me it took a couple of weeks just contemplating these new Short- Duration High Intensity Interval Workouts, to then implementing a few concepts into my gym workouts.

It had been drilled into me that to be effective a traditional workout could only be done a certain way.  This new approach challenged everything I had studied and what had worked for me in the past.  Or rather, what I believed had worked.

I then started substituting a home workout for a gym workout, until all my workouts were done at home.  The elapsed time for this transition took about eight weeks.  It is amazing to me the amount of time I have saved.  And the results I have gained.

Note: Short-duration High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Tabatas are completely different from 4 Minute Mornings.