Have you heard of sprint interval training? For postmenopausal women who are gaining fat, losing muscle, and prone to injuries, sprint interval training, or SIT, could be your new best friend. A recent study done on postmenopausal women showed SIT sessions both decreased fat and increased lean muscle. That’s a big deal. Cardio in any form rarely increases lean muscle tissue. It’s association with fat burning or calorie burning is widely accepted. Yet SIT seemingly is a two-for-one.
Sprint interval training is just “sprinting” or pushing yourself for a few seconds followed by a recovery period. Sprint interval training shows promise for postmenopausal women very specific to offsetting changes that occur during menopause. It’s easy, convenient, and can be made fun with a friend or music.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has survived the trend stage and it’s a staple of fitness routines. There’s been enough time to capture the rate of injury associated with HIIT participation. The news is not good. Injury rates have increased significantly as HIIT participation has increased.
Injuries are often due to overtraining. Overtraining occurs when there is too much volume, intensity (or both) and too little recovery time between exercise sessions. As a middle-aged woman, you may not recognize or be able to distinguish it. Signs of overtraining mimic signs of menopause.
Sprint intervals, as the title implies, are shorter than high-intensity intervals in HIIT workouts. Those can last anywhere from 20-seconds to minutes in duration. Both workout types alternate recover periods between of either light movement or of complete rest.
Subjects used stationary bicycles. The video included in this article shows me on my bike set on a trainer at home. It’s easy to put your bike on a trainer and remove it for riding outdoors again. If you own a bike and don’t want to invest in a stationary bike a trainer is a good solution.
In the study mentioned above, participants did 20 minutes of intervals training on exercise bicycles. The intervals consisted of alternating 8-second sprints with 12-second light pedaling. The interval training was preceded by a warm up and ended with a cool down. The total exercise sessions were 28 minutes. Subjects did 3 workouts a week for 8 weeks.
Are you just beginning? I recommend you start with 10 minutes of alternating intervals. If you’re just starting an exercise program or if you’re new to biking, add two minutes a week to your workouts.
It’s not uncommon to think if a little is good more is better. So use caution and limit your higher intensity exercise sessions to 45-60 minutes per week. Repeat, per week, not per session. For example, if you begin with 10 minutes of the intervals three times a week (plus your warm up and cool down) that’s 30 minutes. As you increase to 20 minutes of intervals three times a week, you reach 60 minutes of intervals. That may be too much for you, but it’s not too little. If you feel you could do more, focus on increasing intensity during those 8-second intervals instead.
Using a bike reduces your risk of injury, however, your system still needs that recovery time between exercise sessions. That’s where the actual adaptations in the body happen that result in better fitness. If you’re exhausted after exercise instead of energized, or you begin to have more sleep problems instead of seeing an improvement in sleep, those are signs you’re doing too much. You can sprinkle other light exercise and strength training sessions between those interval days.
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