Shorter duration exercise has a built in motivational factor- it's over quicker! This eliminates the dread of an hour on the treadmill or elliptical after a long day at work. Instead, rest assured that quicker more intense workouts will leave you burning fat for hours after the workout is over. Your biggest challenge is knowing what to do now that you don't have the cardio machines to depend on.
Short-duration, high-intensity exercise improves body composition. It is also a great way to spice up the traditional mundane cardio workout. For the fitness enthusiast not familiar with HIIT, it is alternating between short bouts of high intensity exercise, lasting seconds to minutes, with resting intervals.
HIIT not only packs a huge metabolic punch in a short amount of time, but there is scientific evidence to show that a single short duration , high intensity workout (as short as 1 – 5 minutes) not only burns more fat and calories during the workout, but also post workout. The ripple effect can last hours after a single one minute burst of all out effort. It is my belief that long duration, continuous cardio is not only inferior to HIIT in terms of body composition effects, but also leaves people who are short on time, chained to a treadmill, burning fewer calories and less fat no matter how long their on the machine. A person can sprint faster for 10 seconds than for 10 minutes and achieve greater metabolic gains.
The first step in putting together a short, high intensity workout, is to scope out your surroundings. For example; if you are near a school, use the track or stadium steps. If you are near a park, look for staircases, low walls, benches, walkways or short steep incline paths. Being that you do not need any equipment to perform these exercises, you can do many types of body weight only exercises such as, pushups, dips, step-ups, and squats. Ramp up the intensity as you advance by incorporating plyometrics or jumping movements like squat jumps, switch ups and bench jumps. Throw in a little sprinting too and you can achieve a full body workout. Perform each exercise in an allotted amount of time instead of reps or sets. The goal is to complete as many repetitions in the allotted time, keeping tight form, before moving on to the next exercise.
Remember the only caveat to shorter workouts is they must be intense to get results. Sprints are are not fast jogs, they are panting, out-of-breath bouts of all out exertion. Squats are low, lunges are deep, and pushups go to the floor. Since the workouts do not require any weights, it is important to contract the muscles as if you had weights. Finally remember to stay safe and listen to your body. High intensity workouts should and will push you outside of your comfort zone. Take rests and adjust exercises according to your current fitness level. If you are new to this type of workout, it is my recommendation that you contact me or your current fitness professional for proper instruction and a fitness assessment to make sure you will not injure yourself and are capable of performing the exercises correctly.