Have you heard of sprint interval training? For postmenopausal women who are gaining fat, losing muscle, and are prone to injuries, sprint interval training, or SIT, could be your new best friend. A recent study on postmenopausal women showed that SIT sessions decreased fat and increased lean muscle. That’s a big deal because cardio in any form rarely increases lean muscle tissue. Its 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 concerning the specific offsetting changes during menopause. Plus, it’s easy, convenient, and can be made fun if you do it with a friend or music.
Sprint Interval Training vs. High-Intensity Interval Training
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has survived the trend stage, and these days it’s become a staple of fitness routines. However, there’s been enough time to capture the rate of injury associated with HIIT participation, and the news is that it can cause injury if you jump into it too fast. AS with any workout, if you try too much too fast, you might find yourself on the injured list, so you should be cautious when starting a HIIT routine.
When it comes to HIIT, 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.
As the title implies, sprint intervals are shorter than the high-intensity intervals in HIIT workouts, which can last anywhere from 20-seconds to minutes in duration. Both workout types alternate recovery periods between either light movement or complete rest.
How to do the Sprint Interval Training From the Study
During the study mentioned at the beginning of the article, subjects used stationary bicycles. A trainer is a good solution if you own an outdoor bike and don’t want to invest in a stationary bike. The video included in this article shows me using my outdoor bike with a bike trainer at home. It’s easy to put your bike on a trainer and remove it for riding outdoors again. Either option will work well, so use whatever works best for you.
In the study mentioned above, participants did 20 minutes of interval training on exercise bicycles. The intervals consisted of alternating 8-second sprints with 12-second light pedaling, and the interval training was preceded by a warm-up and ended with a cool down. The total exercise sessions were 28 minutes, and 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.
More Sprint Interval Training is Not Better
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. I 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 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 to keep your body working at its peak level without overdoing it.