By Tamara Jacobi
Want to get fit but always short on time? You might be happy to hear that a short blast of intense exercise has been proven to be even better for you than extensive workouts. Surprised? Welcome to the world of burst training, where high intensity intervals—high-speed jumping jacks, sit-ups, sprints and more—are the name of the game. The best part? Burst training means you can spend less time exercising and be fitter than ever. Too good to be true?
As a nutrition coach and long time endurance athlete, I have to admit that originally I was skeptical of the burst training philosophy. I strongly believed that the longer you exercise, the more calories you burn and the fitter you will become. Reluctantly, I decided to give burst training a try . . .
What exactly is burst training? Essentially, burst training means pushing yourself to your limit (90 – 100 %) of your maximum effort for only 30 – 60 seconds. This is followed by rest for 30 – 60 seconds, allowing your heart rate to fall. That’s really all there is to it. Burst training experts recommend that you do 4 – 6 reps of bursts. This will take you under 20 minutes and you’re done with your workout for the day. Doing this a 3 – 4 times a week can help you achieve the same, and potentially even better results than spending hours and hours at the gym.
I decided to put this theory to the test. I ran sprints, rode my bike furiously up short steep hills and did high-speed sets of push-ups, sit-ups and high knees. The result? I became stronger and leaner then ever before! I also experienced a drop in my crazy food cravings and my body felt overall cleaner and more balanced. What a wonderful discovery!
Naturally, my attention was perked and I started researching burst training. It turns out that the theory of spending long hours at the gym actually sets your body up to store fat. After an long endurance workout, your body immediately begins to store fat in order to prepare itself for the next endurance session. Conversely, burst training and pushing your body to the limit, even for a short time, actually burns your body’s stores of sugar and triggers your body to burn fat for the next 36 hours following your workout. Your body knows that it needs lean muscle mass in order to perform at it max during intense bursts. So, it makes sense that if you’re looking to get fit and lose weight, burst training should to be an integral part of your fitness plan.
Beyond weight loss, burst training is also a wonderful way to boost your energy, strengthen your heart, minimize injuries, improve bone strength, and support a healthy metabolism. Short intense bursts release adrenaline and endorphins, all of which create a wonderful feeling of aliveness in your body. Conversely, long hours at the gym can take a huge toll on your body (go easy on your knees!) as well as potentially cause spikes in appetite, lowered immune system, sugar cravings, brain fog and create hormonal imbalance.
As always, everyone is unique, and different body types are suited to different styles of exercise. However, Dr. Alan Sears (developer of PACE; Progressively Accelerating Cardiopulmonary Exertion) encourages us to reflect on the behaviors of our ancient ancestors, saying that long-duration exercise wasn’t part of their daily lives. “They never ran for mile after mile without rest of recovery. Their exercise was primarily hunting with short bursts of exertion, followed by periods of rest”. I would also add that our ancestors also happened to be in extremely good shape! Their bodies were lean and strong, and ready for max performance. It seems that by exercising in short bursts, followed by periods of recovery, the body is able to achieve its ideal level of fitness. In the world of exercise, more is not necessarily better.
Needless to say, I’m convinced that burst training is a key part of a healthy living regime. In addition to a healthy diet, burst training can help you get your health back on track quickly. If lack of time is one of the major factors why you can’t make a commitment to regular exercise, this could be the solution for you. Ready to give it a try? Let me support you! Let’s start building your nutritional foundation and burst to burn fat. Get started by checking out my free guide to listening to your body.
Tamara Jacobi, Certified Health Coach
Tamara Jacobi is a certified health and nutrition coach who received her training at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She is the founder of Jungle Girl Health, www.junglegirlhealth.com, offering health coaching over the phone to individuals who are ready to feel and look their best. By using whole foods for healing and lifestyle balancing techniques, Tamara helps people understand how to heal and nourish their bodies completely.
Tamara leads an adventurous and active lifestyle, dividing her time between the Colorado Rocky Mountains and the Mexican Pacific coastline. In Mexico, she is the owner and manager of the Tailwind jungle lodge, a certified sustainable jungle lodge and adventure tour company just north of Puerto Vallarta, www.tailwindjunglelodge.com. Tamara also guides adventure tours for the Tailwind jungle lodge including sea kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and hiking. In her free time she spends as much time as possible playing outside. She is a passionate skier, road biker, trail runner and stand up paddle boarder.