Hate heroin? Just try it once, you might like it.

 photo stolen from linked article

photo stolen from linked article

I love it when folks send me articles to rant about. It saves me time, and lets me know what you're interested in reading about.

This is going to be part 1 of a 3-part series on the perils of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT, is what the cool kids all say) and how our style of training gets you better results while limiting the downside.

The article Michael sent me is titled "Hate High-Intensity Exercise? Try It. You Might Like It: Just trying a H.I.I.T. workout for the first time may be a critical step in including high-intensity training as part of your everyday routine." (It's NYTimes, so it may be paywalled if you go over your allotment.  (See here for other sources to the article.)

It's really hard to get started in an exercise routine. We see it every new year. This is the time you're finally going to go running every day. It always fails. But it's not your fault. It's your biochemistry. Years ago Tom from the Fat Head movie wrote about The Rider and The Elephant. He was talking about the biochemistry that makes all diets fail. It's the same thing with exercise. If you don't get what you need, your brain will take over and you can't control your brain. It will do what it (thinks) it needs to to get what it (thinks) it needs. 

In the case of diet, if you try to starve yourself on a low fat diet, your brain panics because you need fat and makes you crave fat until you get it. You can't control your brain, it's like a rider on an elephant. The rider can make suggestions, but the elephant will go wherever it wants. You can try to "be good" and starve yourself, but eventually your brain wins. We see it as a lack of willpower, but it's really your biochemistry winning.

With exercise it's the same thing, those long slogs running on the road every New Years puts you brain in panic mode and eventually you don't make it outside any more. Same with the endless cardio on the treadmill at the gym. 

But there's a way to short circuit that: HIIT! According to the NYTimes article, just trying one HIIT workout is enough to kickstart you into a routine. I don't disagree with that. That's one of the reasons CrossFit is so big (and now all the silly copy cats too). HIIT is addictive. (Maybe I can have Part 1B of this article be Amy's neuroscience discussion on what's really happening).

HIIT release endorphins quickly and en-mass (unlike long distance cardio which doles them out slower). You feel great after a workout. It's almost a high. Really, it's your body going into shock. It's not evolutionary advantageous to have PTSD after being chased by a lion, so our brains adapted to make it more pleasant.

That's same mechanism with HIIT: you push your body farther and harder than it should, it tries to mitigate that with feel-happy chemicals in your brain. It's very addictive. You start training more often and harder to get that hit (pun intended). You start over reaching, you get injured, you get depressed when you can't make to the gym because of your injury. I've seen it over and over again, and I still see it on my friends' Instagram feeds. YOU SHOULD NOT BE CHRONICALLY INJURED IF YOU'RE AN AMATEUR ATHELETE!!! Thats's a problem!

HIIT workouts are addictive and destructive. Even if you don't get injured, you're bathing your cells in acid. See here, here, and here. You may enjoy them. I know I did. I was lucky enough that I was young enough and didn't do them long enough to cause any permanent damage. Don't get lured into HIIT, and if you're stuck, quit now and come see us - our AGT approach will get you the same metabolic conditioning without the damage (and unfortunately the addiction that keeps you coming back - maybe I should start handing out free coffee).

Michael Deskevich