Monday, November 19, 2018

CrossFit Workouts: Benefits, Risks & How to Do Your Own

Fartlek may sound like a funny name, but not to the people of Sweden. That’s because Fartlek is a Swedish term meaning “speed play,” and it helped take the cross-country success to whole new levels decades ago. Now, athletes and everyday runners around the world are benefiting from the training technique that is considered an unique interval form of speed running.

It’s one of my favorite types of running workouts because it helps increase my running economy and it’s fun, not monotonous like some types of running workouts. Fartlek is definitely more of a freestyle speed workout, meaning it improves speed and endurance but you can do it almost anywhere. It’s way less structured than a typical track workout might be.

I hear so many people complain about being a slow runner, saying they struggle to run faster. Still, most of those people aren’t implementing speed work necessary to gain speed. Remember, Olympians are not born Olympians, they have to work at it.
What Is a Fartlek Workout?

Let’s take a closer look at the fartlek workout. This type of running involves fast and slower portions of the run. The slower segments allow for recovery. You may be familiar with track workouts involving intervals of 400 meters with a 200 meter jog, for example. That is typically a very structured workout at a very specific pace for a very specific distance; however, a fartlek workout is usually less structured. There is a specific intention with the workout: gain speed and running economy. And while you can do fartlek training on a track, it can actually be done anywhere — on the road, trails, hills and even on the beach. (1)

Fartlek improves your running through speed development, stamina, economy, the ability to perform endurance work and overall performance. The idea is to have freestyle, more spontaneous sprint bursts combined with the amount of active recovery you feel you need to go a bit faster on the next one, and the next one and so on. Active recovery is when you continue moving, but usually at a resting pace such as an easy jog. Studies indicate that interval cardio training can greatly help with VO2 max, which is the maximum oxygen uptake, helping you to become more efficient with practice. This has even been shown to be effective for anyone dealing with obesity. (2)

The intention of fartlek training is to help instill the ability, both mentally and physically, to surge during races — especially if you’re competing. I want to note that even though it is a bit less structured, I recommend determining the fartlek workout you want to do before you head out the door. You are more likely to do it if you plan it.
5 Benefits of Fartlek Training
1. Fartlek Breaks Up the Monotony of Day-to-Day Training

It’s not uncommon to get burned out with your workouts. The fartlek may be the perfect way to bring new energy and results back to your workouts when you’re feeling bored and uninspired. (3)

Sometimes you just need a little variety to make it more interesting and a little fun. Fartlek training is a great way to add variety to your workouts. You can even do this with a friend to make it even more fun. On your next run, after warming up, choose a starting point. At that point, such as the next red light, run for 1 minute at marathon pace, then run for 3 minutes at an easy pace. Continue this pattern, performing 4 or 5 intervals to start. You can work up 8 to 10 intervals as you gain strength. (4)
2. Fartlek Will Make You Stronger

If you do the same thing over and over, it may become comfortable but eventually your body will not respond as well. The body gets used to the activity and, over time, can plateau. What happens is the nervous system and muscles, for example, adapt to your routine. This happens pretty fast — maybe as soon as 6 to 8 weeks. At that point, you may not feel very challenged, mentally or physically.

To stay sharp, engaged and to enhance your performance, you may need to change things up. Fartlek workouts can offer the perfect challenge and you can change the fartlek routine, rotating through several options. One week, you may run sprints for a period of 30 seconds while the next, you may run them for 2 minutes. The options are nearly endless and can help the body gain strength and efficiency. (5)
3. Fartlek Helps You Burn More Calories

Speed work will definitely burn more calories in less time. According to a recent study, performing interval types of workout burns more calories because you are working more systems in the body which requires more effort. More effort will burn more calories than if exercising at a steady state.

This could make the fartlek a great workout for anyone who has less time for exercise but wants to be as effective as possible. (6)  Think about it this way: walking leisurely burns calories and even breathing burns calories, but walking fast is going to burn more calories and fat in a shorter amount of time because you are using more energy.

Running faster does the same. A leisurely jog is great for good health, but doing a little speed play can increase your calorie burn in way less time than a leisurely jog while improving your muscle development. The more muscle we have, the more calories we burn at rest. By combining both rest intervals or an easy jog with some hard sprints, you can get a great workout and burn calories at the same time. (7)
4. Prevent Injuries with Fartleks

Fartleks may be a great way to prevent injuries in runners. Interval training can allow the body to safely recover between intervals so that you minimize your risk of injury. It is very common to see runners getting injured because of doing too much too soon. By doing intervals, you can start with a few and work your way up, while giving the body ample time to recover. The American Council on Exercise states that by doing short bouts of intervals using a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio, such as 1 minute fast with 2-3 minutes of easy recovery, you can get a great workout while putting less stress on the body. (8)
5. Use Fartlek for Increased Speed and Endurance

Finding a workout that can increase speed and endurance all at the same time is ideal for many. The fartlek may be your workout if this is what you are trying to achieve. According to, the result of a good fartlek workout is speed and endurance. This happens because you are working the cardiovascular system each time you kick up the pace. With practice, this helps your system improve its level of effort and overall threshold. (9)
Fartlek vs HIIT vs Tabata

A fartlek workout could be likened to a HIIT or Tabata style workout given that you run, or perform exercise, for a period of time or distance; however, the main difference is that with fartlek, you run easy to moderate for an active recovery period to prepare your body for another interval. A study  shows that active recovery increases VO2 max more than passive recovery, such as standing. (10)

Men’s Fitness reports that HIIT style workouts are a great way to help athletes gain more fitness through helping their bodies and minds adapt and learn how to work at a higher intensity. Because it is set for a very short period of time, it allows the body to hit it hard. But if you were to ask your body to perform that same level of effort for 10 to 15 minutes, it would likely not be possible for most people. The rest intervals give the muscles time to rest. This work provides amazing “physiological adaptations, fat burning, insulin sensitivity and skeletal muscle oxidation.” (11)

Tabata is similar in that it is filled with bursts of hard work, but it is typically structured in 4 minute segments with 20 seconds of hard exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. HIIT is usually designed in a more 1:1 or 1:2 ratio — a little more similar to the fartlek style.

Ultimately, the longer the work interval, the longer the rest interval though the workouts can vary to make them more challenging such as the one I have provided below. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise by Izumi Tabata shared a study stating that intense 4-minute workouts performed five days a week over a six week period of time improved VO2 max in subjects as well as their anaerobic system. If a workout is shorter, it should be more intense. However, it is common to find Tabata style class at the gym that lasts for 30 to 60 minutes which is considered a Tabata adaptation.

History of Fartlek

The fartlek style workout was developed in 1937 by the Swedish cross-country coach named Gösta Holmér. The training strategy was the result of a long string of Finnish cross country defeats. Holmér developed a plan to focus on speed and endurance training using short bursts of “faster than race pace efforts during training runs.” (13)

Through a fartlek training plan, the record for the mile toggled between Gunder Hagg and Arne Anderson in the 1940s. Hagg eventually took the record with an impressive 4:01 in 1945 and held that record for nine years. (14, 15)
Fartlek Workout

You can gain amazing benefits from doing a fartlek workout. You can perform this workout on the road, at the track, on hills and even on the treadmill at the gym.

Keep in mind, that as I mentioned before, too much too soon can result in injury. (That goes with just about any type of exercise.) Take it slow and it is best to have some base running under your belt first. If you are uncertain, check with your doctor or your coach. Speaking of coach, you may want to consider getting one (if you do not already have one) to help you with your goals and workout plans, as well as accountability.

How is it that professional dancers can glide across the room, without looking where they are going and not bump into each other along the way? Proprioception. How can we walk down a flight of stairs at night when the lights are off? Same.

Proprioception, simply put, means sense of self. The proprioceptors are sensors that provide information about joint angle, muscle length and muscle tension, which gives the brain information about the position of the limb in space at any given time.

While I do not claim to be a great dancer, I have seen some amazing footwork that seems impossible to most. This includes ballroom dancing as well as ballet and any other type of dancing, or even a barre workout. Of course, proprioception goes beyond dancing — to all types of athletes who are able to make movements with their arms and legs and know exactly what support those arms and legs will give them without even thinking about it.

Somehow, most of us are able to execute body movements that require proprioception without much worry. But developing high-level proprioceptive abilities not only will improve your athletic performance, such as footwork, but simply make you more lithe and agile no matter what you do. Let’s learn how.
Who Can Benefit from Proprioception?

Athletes, accident-prone or clumsy individuals, the elderly, those with diseases and even children can benefit from proprioception training. But as you will see, everyone can benefit from proprioceptive work.

Because proprioceptive signals from the joints, muscles, tendons and skin are essential for movement, the loss of proprioceptive awareness may affect the control of muscle tone, disrupt reflexes and severely impair voluntary movement. Numerous neurological and orthopedic conditions are associated with proprioceptive and kinesthetic impairment, such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease (PD), peripheral sensory neuropathies, or injuries to ligaments, joint capsules and muscles. It makes sense that proprioception training could be beneficial to anyone that has been affected, whether due to injury, birth defects or disease. (1) 

As studies suggests, there are ways to improve proprioception, no matter if you’re an athlete or  even having experienced a stroke. People have varying degrees of proprioception awareness. A professional athlete has a high degree of proprioception awareness, but you may know someone who is accident prone — and this could mean that their proprioception awareness is not as developed as it could be. While one’s proprioception may not mirror a professional athlete’s, working on your proprioceptive skills will make a difference in your day-to-day activities.

It is understood that the brain uses sensory information to accurately produce motor commands. In contrast, recent studies have begun to investigate how sensory and perceptual systems are tuned based on motor function, and specifically motor learning.

For example, in a study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, sensitivity to small displacements of the hand was measured before and after 10 minutes of motor learning, during which subjects grasped the handle of a robotic arm and guided a cursor to a series of visual targets randomly located within a small workspace region. The study showed that the proprioceptive acuity improved following motor learning. The findings support the idea that sensory changes occur in parallel with changes to motor commands during motor learning. (2)

Another study investigated the link between motor learning and sensory function in arm movement control, and the findings are consistent with the idea that motor learning is associated with systematic changes to proprioception. This study focused on testing whether motor learning could be improved by providing subjects with proprioceptive training on a desired hand trajectory.

Subjects who experienced the additional proprioceptive demonstration of the desired trajectory showed greater improvements during training movements than control subjects who only received visual information. This benefit of adding proprioceptive training was seen in both movement speed and position. These findings support the idea that the addition of proprioceptive training can augment motor learning, recognizing that the brain uses sensory information to accurately produce motor commands. (3) (4)

In terms of athletes, a study was reported by the British Journal of Sports Medicine that followed two professional female handball teams for one season. The intervention team used a prescribed proprioceptive training program, and the results of the intervention and control teams were compared.

The proprioception sensory function of the players in the intervention team significantly improved between the assessments made at the start and the end of the season. This is the first study to show that proprioception training improves the joint position sense in elite female handball players. This may explain the effect of neuromuscular training in reducing the injury rate. (5)
Types of Exercises to Enhance Proprioception

There are a number of exercises that can be performed to help train your proprioception. It is always best to work with a physical therapist or licensed trainer to ensure that you are selecting the right exercises to help enhance your desired performance.

Balancing Exercises

Good exercises for proprioception development would be activities that challenge balance and equilibrium. Balance exercises help teach your body and brain to control the position of a deficient or an injured joint. A common example of a balance exercise that can help improve proprioception is the use of a balance board. You may need to begin holding onto the wall until you have gained a stronger sense of the intended use of the muscles in order to balance on the board.

Exercises While Closing the Eyes

As you become stronger, you can gain the ability to inform and trust your muscles to perform standing activities with the eyes closed. This enhances the communication between the brain and the muscles so that you are able to perform activities properly without watching the movement take place.

Strengthening Exercises

Knee strengthening exercises like leg presses, squats and lateral movements with the arms are examples of ways that you can help establish the connection between muscle fibers by building strength. As you build strength in the muscles, the brain begins to understand the request of this strength more and more. As strength builds, it helps improve proprioception awareness with the mind and body and also allows you to continue/hold a movement or action in place far longer with proper form.

Plyometric Movements and Drills

Exercise involving coordination and movement patterns can greatly enhance the kinesthetic awareness. Vertical jumps, running figure-eight patterns, change of direction drills and crossover walking are other routines that help establish the connection between muscles and nerves. As you are asking the body to perform certain movements, it trains the brain to respond to these movements. Over time, it becomes easier to perform these exercises without much thought as a natural connection becomes a part of the routine.
Proprioception Training Routine

Table Top

Using a mat to protect your knees, get on all fours on the floor in table top position. Make sure the back is flat and the neck is aligned with the spine.

While looking at the floor, raise and extend your right arm and your left leg at the same time. Keep a tight core. Hold for 3–5 seconds and repeat on the other side. Do 10 reps on each side.

Advanced: Hold for 20 seconds with eyes closed. Really focus on a tight core and perfect balance keeping the arm and leg parallel to the floor.

Single Leg

Stand with feet hip distance apart. Raise your right knee to a 90-degree angle and hold for 3–5 seconds. Return foot to the floor and repeat 5 times on each leg. You may need to hold onto the wall or a chair at first. Work towards not needing the extra support.

Advanced: Perform this exercise with eyes closed, no support and holding for 10 seconds, 10 times on each leg.

Crossover Walk (Karoake)

Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Begin walking to your right crossing your left leg over the right, then back to starting position. Continue stepping sideways in a constant motion for about 15 yards. Repeat in the other direction, 5 times each direction.

Advanced: The advanced option is the same but much faster and with a high knee raise as you cross over the leg, naturally twisting the hips back and forth while moving and crossing over in the same direction. Repeat in the other direction for 25 yards, 5–10 times each side.

Squat Jump
Stand up straight with your knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor by pushing hips back, keeping back flat and head facing forward — with weight on heels rather than the balls of your feet.

Immediately explode upwards, reaching as high as you can with your hands as your feet leave the floor.
Land in the same position you started in. Swing your arms back and jump again right away.

How Proprioception Works

Proprioception refers to the body’s ability to sense movement within joints and joint position. This ability enables us to know where our limbs are in space without having to look and the reason ballet dancers are able to have such awareness of their bodily movements without looking at the action as it occurs. It is important in everyday movements but especially so in complicated sporting movements when precise coordination is essential.

The International Association for Dance Medicine defines proprioception metaphorically as the sixth sense, extending the classical five senses to include the body. This body sense is more than just a feeling of movement. It is intimately tied to our feeling of muscle tone, perception of effort and, most importantly, our perception of balance.

Specialized nerve endings originate in our muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments, joints, and some scientists even include the skin. These sensory receptors perceive the amount of pressure and speed at which a movement is occurring and the rate at which the speed is changing, the direction of the movement as well as any pain associated with the movement.

Massive proprioceptive input from sensory nerves embedded in muscles and joints enters the spinal cord and is carried towards subcortical and cortical parts of the brain, which provides us with both a conscious and subconscious sense of where we are and how we are moving. We are aware when we are moving and can usually turn our attention to the fine details of this movement at any given time, something often required to help refine movements within a sport or activity.

But our subconscious sense of embodiment is essential for timely, appropriate neuromuscular coordination. Just as your foot is aware of the location of the step beneath it, an athlete’s quadriceps and hamstrings know just when and how to contract to stabilize around the knee to perform a specific athletic movements. Without this inner sense of timing and accuracy, the rate of injury would be incredibly high, causing simple movements to require an enormous amount of cognitive energy. (6)
Types of Proprioceptors

We have a system of receptor nerves, or proprioceptors, located in the muscles, joints and ligaments. These receptors can sense changes similar to how other receptors monitor pressure, sound, heat and light passing signals to the brain. The brain then sends a message to the muscles telling them what to do. This can happen so fast that it’s, at times, referred to as a reflex rather than a reaction, but there are a few components that make up this action as a whole.

Kinesthetic Awareness

Proprioception and kinesthetic awareness are often used interchangeably; however, it is important to note the difference. Kinesthetic awareness is a conscious effort to react to the situation, while proprioception is an unconscious or subconscious process. Ultimately, the brain sends the signal so fast that it is an automatic response.

However, the two work together to allow a smooth efficient and safe platform for everyday movement and athletic performance. A great example is when a skier acts subconsciously, through proprioception, to stay vertical yet the person’s mind, their kinesthetic awareness, processes what needs to happen in order to ski over slopes, moguls, around trees and anything else needed to make necessary adjustments to the body to successfully accomplish the motion at hand. Proprioception is an inner sense, the central nervous system, while kinesthetic awareness is an external sense, the body in space and time. (7)

Golgi Tendon Organ

Another type of proprioceptor is the Golgi tendon organ, which provides information about changes in muscles tension. When the muscle contracts, the collagen fibrils are pulled tight, and this activates the Golgi tendon organ. Because changes in muscle tension will provide different degrees of pull on the tendon, the Golgi tendon organ provides information about muscle tension to better assist the muscle in performing an action.

Muscle Spindle

The muscle spindle is also a type of proprioceptor that provides information about changes in muscle length. When the muscle lengthens, the muscle spindle is stretched triggering specific actions within the muscle fibers. (8)
Precautionary Notes

It is always important to seek expert training support whenever possible. Work with a fitness professional or physical therapist with these types of exercises as they will be able to individualize a program for your specific needs, whether elderly wanting to gain better sense of balance and basic day-to-day functions or an athlete wanting to enhance performance and prevent injuries.
In simplest terms, the “afterburn effect” is essentially the calories you continue to burn after exercising. While many people primarily pay attention to the amount of calories they burn while running, cycling, swimming or lifting weights, there’s a whole other important component to calorie-burning that you might be overlooking.

That’s because our bodies actually use up extra energy (calories) after certain workouts to help us recover, cool down and deal with the hormonal changes that the exercise produced. The scientific name for this process is excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.

What does the research we now have available regarding benefits of the afterburn effect mean for the future of your workouts? If you properly plan your exercise routine so you do the right types of high-intensity workouts several times a week, you’ll gain the ability to burn more fat in less time. Sound too good to be true? Here’s what this phenomenon is all about …
The Afterburn Effect Explained

The key to increasing the afterburn effects of your workouts, so you can burn more calories throughout the whole day, is practicing high-intensity exercises. That’s because the afterburn effect is small following steady-state traditional cardio workouts like jogging but is significantly higher following intense workouts — like sprinting, circuit, strength and burst activities. (1)

If your goals are to lean out, build muscle fast, increase your cardiovascular health and not spend loads of time needing to exercise, then the bottom line is that doing brief, but intense, intermittent bouts of exercise is the way to go. The benefits of high-intensity interval training — HIIT, what it’s commonly referred to — are greater strength, improved speed and better fat burning, all in ways that steady-state cardio workouts simply can’t comparably create.

In general, the more intense the exercise, the greater the afterburn effect is going to be. This means that a workout that’s 20 minutes long involving sprinting (or practicing another form of burst training or intense activity) as fast as you can for 30 seconds, repeated for 10 rounds with 90-second rest periods in between, will have a higher afterburn effect compared to doing steady-state exercises like running moderately for 30 minutes.

How many more calories will the afterburn effect burn through following intense exercise? It’s hard to estimate an exact amount since every person reacts to high-intensity exercise differently. Factors like someone’s current level of fitness, gender, age, training duration and intensity can potentially influence the magnitude of the afterburn.

That being said, one study published in the Journal of Exercise Science showed that the afterburn effect is associated with an elevation in metabolism due to the thermic effect of activity regardless of your current fitness level — and some experts believe that this can cause around a 10-percent increase in calorie expenditure for the day following just 20 minutes of high-intensity exercise. (2)

In other words, if you’re an active woman who normally burns 2,000 calories a day, taking into account your additional energy requirements might mean you’re now burning 2,200!

Here’s the scientific breakdown of the afterburn effect:

HIIT workouts increase your metabolism — in other words, they raise your total energy expenditure, which is the amount of calories your body burns for energy daily. You can think of energy expenditure as the amount of energy a person uses up throughout the entire day performing all bodily activities, whether it’s walking around, showering or bending over. We all use up energy in the form of calories every time we breath, move, digest food and our heart pumps out blood — so most of our energy expenditure goes without us even noticing or making an effort.

When it comes to exercise, of course, we do take notice of our increased effort and, therefore, the higher amount of energy we’re using. But the energy expenditure of a workout is the total measure of calories burned during and after exercise, so while we might be pushing ourselves at the gym and “feeling the burn,” we actually continue to use extra energy once the workout is over without even realizing it.

As you’re learning, certain forms of exercise (high-intensity) dial up the energy burn following exercise better than others. And after intense exercise, your body has to work twice as hard to replenish its oxygen stores than it does after steady-state exercise.

The technical name for calories burned after exercise is “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption,” or EPOC. Evidence suggests an exponential relationship between exercise intensity and the magnitude of the EPOC. The term EPOC describes the fact that at higher exercise intensities, oxygen uptake isn’t proportional to heat expenditure. In other words, EPOC results in an oxygen debt because this is how the body works to recover after a tough workout and brings the organs, heart and hormones back to a resting state.

The oxygen debt component is part of the reason there’s an afterburn effect because it takes a toll on energy use; in fact, this process of bringing the body back to homeostasis and normalizing metabolism following intense activity might take up to three days!

The more often you do intense workouts, the more it pays off — the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism reports that EPOC varies as a function of metabolic stress and more training improves the efficiency of metabolic regulation during recovery from exercise. (3)

EPOC is not the only thing that accounts for the afterburn effect. Other aspects have to do with body’s production of lactic acid and the process of hypertrophy, or the building of muscle mass.

Think of it this way: If you’re wearing your muscles out and producing higher levels of lactic acid (the chemical reaction that is responsible for the “burn” you feel when your muscles are fatigued), then you’re causing damage to muscle tissue at the microscopic level that needs to be repaired. This takes energy because it involves the body breaking down amino acids (proteins) in muscles and then rebuilding them. In the process, intense exercise also increases testosterone naturally, which can mean more muscle gain.

This process of laying down new proteins in order to build back muscles stronger and bigger raises your total energy expenditure — and basically all of this happens after you finish working out.

Employing the afterburn effect - Dr. Axe
Using the Afterburn Effect to Burn More Fat

For years, we’ve been led to believe that exercising for longer periods of time results in more calories burned and, therefore, a better body composition. But in recent years, the idea that you can reach your goals by following an exercise regimen that’s actually the opposite is now well-supported by a growing field of research.

A 2011 report published in the Journal of Obesity states that although generally the effects of regular aerobic exercise on body fat is negligible, intense forms of exercise may have a greater impact on body composition. “Emerging research examining high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) indicates that it may be more effective at reducing subcutaneous and abdominal body fat than other types of exercise.” (4)

During aerobic exercise, the muscles use glucose (sugar) primarily for energy. But on the other hand, during the longer recovery period described above, the body primarily uses fatty acids in addition to glucose. This translates into you burning more fat while you build more muscle. That’s important because, even at rest, muscle burns more calories than stored body fat does.

How much intense exercise do you need to do? This depends on how intense your workouts are. For example, the World Health Organization has switched away from simply recommending steady-state exercise and now advises the following:

    Adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, OR do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, OR an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity activity.

Here are three ways to practice high-intensity exercise in order to dial up your afterburn effect:
1. Cycling, Using the Elliptical or Rowing

Instead of doing steady-state cardio for 50 minutes, halve this amount and use interval training. High-intensity interval training combines short, high-intensity bursts of exercise with slow, recovery phases. These intervals are repeated throughout one short (15–20 minute) session. The intense parts are done at 85 percent–100 percent maximum heart rate, rather than 50 percent–70 percent that is the average moderate endurance activity level.

A simple way to practice HIIT is to push yourself as hard as you can for about 20–30 seconds, then take a rest of about 60 seconds. Repeat this cycle for the duration of your exercise. The shorter your rest interval is, the harder it will be. You should feel wiped out afterward!
2. Weight Lifting or Resistance Training

Practice a circuit-style workout or complete “supersets.” Supersets are when you go from one weighted exercise straight into the next, without resting in between. You work one muscle group hard until it’s fatigued, then move on to another one right afterward.

In other words, you use opposite muscle groups so while you rest one, you train the other. For example, you might start with squats working your legs primarily, then move onto bench presses working your upper body primarily. Or you go from back rows to chest presses.

Also, to radically switch up your routine, give HIIT a try by incorporating some full-body kettlebell workouts or do CrossFit workouts.
3. Sprinting

This is likely the most popular way to practice HIIT and achieve high afterburn effects. This model follows the same idea as that for cycling or rowing mentioned above — you swap a longer steady workout for a shorter but intense one. And I mean intense!

During your sprints, you really want to push yourself, almost like you’re running because your life depends on it. Try sprinting for 10–15 minutes total to start, using 90-second intervals. This means pushing yourself very hard for 30 seconds, then taking a rest for one minute.

Repeat the cycles until you’re at about 15 minutes or slightly more once you’ve been practicing HIIT for a while. You can practice this outdoors or take it inside for an intense burst-training workout on a treadmill.
Future Research & Precautions Regarding the Afterburn Effect

There’s still a lot to learn about the afterburn effect and how exactly it works. Almost every aspect of a workout — from the number of reps and sets completed, number of rest periods in between sets, intensity, speed, types of movements performed, and a person’s heart rate — can all impact how dramatic the afterburn effect turns out to be.

It appears that well-trained individuals have a more rapid return of post-exercise metabolism to resting levels after exercising; therefore, they might be getting the most bang for their-buck when it comes to HIIT workouts. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of benefits for people new to exercise, too, assuming they start slow and prevent injuries. One of the biggest challenges might be encouraging HIIT newbies and those who have weight to lose to even start intense exercise programs that can raise their afterburn effect, since intensity can be intimidating.

If you’re practicing HIIT for the first time, keep your workouts shorter, around 10 minutes, and use a method that you’re comfortable with like running (on grass or a treadmill) or cycling. Regardless of how fit you already are, HIIT workouts shouldn’t be done every day because this can increase injury risk; they’re best when completed just two to three times a week (or even less in some cases). If you choose to do a circuit-style intense workout or one using weights, consider starting with a professional trainer to make sure your form is correct and you aren’t setting yourself up for injury.

CrossFit is a high-intensity, constantly varied, functional movement exercise program that has seen a huge growth in popularity around the world since it first started in the early 2000s. What originally began as an exercise program to help train military forces, police and firemen is now taking the fitness world by storm.

CrossFit workouts promise to keep members in the top shape of their lives, building muscle faster, promoting better recovery and usually meeting a whole support network of like-minded people in the process, too! With a growing number of CrossFit certified trainers, gyms, and programs now being offered across the world, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about.
What Is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a type of strength and conditioning workout that uses your own bodyweight for resistance in order to build power all over. Consistent with the benefits of high-intensity interval training, this means no standard cardio workouts and hours spent at the gym. CrossFit workouts might even be done entirely without any equipment or added weights, although some people will choose to use weights for certain movements.

According to the founders of, several simple observations taken from top-performing athletes training over the past 30 years have formed the basic principles behind CrossFit workouts. Here are some of the key reasons CrossFit workouts were first introduced, and why they’ve been growing in popularity ever since:

    Heavy lifters are able to apply more power to activities than endurance athletes. Powerlifters − those who attempt to lift maximum weights within three attempts − are especially strong.
    Sprinters and people conditioned to do Burst Training are usually able to match the cardiovascular benefits and abilities of endurance athletes, but with less time spent training.
    Endurance athletes and bodybuilders are usually very specialized in their sport — for example, being aerobically fit or very muscular — but can be lacking in versatility (like having allover strength, power or stamina).
    Doing HIIT workouts and training at high intensities (meaning workouts that would be unsustainable for long periods of time) leads to numerous health benefits, including faster weight loss along with more fat-burning and muscle-building.
    HIIT workouts can be done quickly (under an hour and sometimes much less) and don’t require someone to work out every single day to maintain strength.

CrossFit brings together knowledge from a diverse background of the world’s most physically fit people to form one full-body workout full of mind-body benefits. Specifically, CrossFit workouts cover “10 Fitness Domains” including:

    Cardiovascular and Respiratory

6 Benefits of CrossFit Workouts
1. Better Conditioning and Versatility

CrossFit programs are designed to increase physical performance in a diverse way, whether it means being able to simply perform everyday tasks better (like mowing the lawn) or preparing your body for tough competitions.

CrossFit athletes train their muscles, joints and ligaments using functional movements, which means they’re useful for more than just looking good in a bathing suit. Well-rounded workouts that use large muscle groups and various ranges of motion lead to better overall health, posture, flexibility, strength and balance.
2. The Ability to Break Through Plateaus

CrossFit is widely varied and based on compound, or functional, movements done in a high-intensity way. This type of training is considered most effective at achieving fitness results in the fastest amount of time, while also helping you break through plateaus and boredom.

CrossFit isn’t just one type of workout repeated day after day — in fact, it’s basically the opposite. By continuously switching up the types of exercises performed, muscles used and intensity, CrossFit workouts keep you from plateauing since your muscles constantly have to work in new ways.

Each program itself can be adjusted to accommodate all types of people, simply by switching up the weight load, duration and intensity of the workouts based on someone’s level of physical fitness.
3.  Help Losing Weight Fast

While many people dread doing steady-state cardio exercises, yet force themselves to do them anyway hoping to lose weight, they’re not aware that high-intensity burst training exercises can actually burn more fat and in less time.

A 2013 study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that improvements in body composition, including weight loss and muscle gain, were significant for those following a CrossFit program, regardless of their level of initial fitness. (1) The purpose of the study was to examine the effects of a CrossFit-based high-intensity power training (HIPT) program on aerobic fitness and body composition.

A total of 23 healthy, adult men and 20 healthy, adult women spanning all levels of aerobic fitness and body composition completed 10 weeks of HIPT. Their workouts consisted of lifts such as the squat, deadlift, clean, snatch and overhead press, performed as quickly as possible in a circuit fashion.

Body fat percentages were estimated before and after the training program along with maximal aerobic capacity (VO2max) to track endurance improvements. After 10 weeks of training, the results showed significant improvements of VO2max and decreased body fat percentage in both the men and women. The significant correlations between absolute oxygen consumption and oxygen consumption relative to bodyweight also indicate that CrossFit workouts help improve VO2max regardless of someone’s starting body composition, changes in their fat and muscle percentages, gender, or fitness level.

4. Less Time Spent Working Out, But More Results

Many people feel that they don’t have time to regularly exercise — try these exercise hacks if you’re always time-crunched — and if they do manage to squeeze in a workout, they might not be using that time to their best advantage. Group–based high-intensity functional training (HIFT) provides time-efficient aerobic and resistance exercise at self-selected intensity levels. Studies show that these types of shorter and more intense workouts, coupled with control over the intensity, can increase adherence.

A 2013 study done by the Department of Kinesiology at Kansas State University examined effects of HIFT as compared to moderate-intensity aerobic and resistance training (ART) on rates of exercise initiation, enjoyment, adherence and intentions. They found that HIFT participants spent significantly less time exercising per week than ART participants, yet were able to maintain exercise enjoyment and were more likely to continue. (2)

Considering that many people choose not to exercise due to a lack of time or boredom, high-intensity exercise options like CrossFit workouts should, therefore, be included in public health interventions to increase activity.
5. Ongoing Motivation and a Solid Support System

Something that draws many people to CrossFit and makes it stand apart is its strong sense of community. Thanks to the ongoing support that stems from the group-based exercise setting, CrossFitters get the added benefit of having fellow athletes to help motivate, encourage and instruct the class inside the “CrossFit Box.”

Studies even suggest that working out in a group setting similar to CrossFit helps people to perceive the class more positively. A 2014 study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning collected questionnaires from a total of 144 members (88 females and 56 males) to assess participants’ perceptions of CrossFit goal structures and the motivational climate encouraged by the trainer and fellow athletes. They found that although goals differed depending on gender, all members generally felt motivation to stick with the program and changes in their fitness-related goals as their membership time went on.

A support system is crucial for keeping you on track and helping you overcome obstacles that can keep you from exercising and eating right. Group motivation means lower dropout rates and more accountability, which often equates to better results!
6. A Community That Supports Eating Like an Athlete!

Many CrossFit athletes choose to start following the Paleo Diet to get stronger, leaner, faster and improve recovery time. Of course, you can do CrossFit workouts without needing to change your diet, but to see faster results and better health benefits,  changing certain eating habits can go a long way. CrossFit athletes are encouraged to eat the following foods most: Lean meats and proteins (like cage-free eggs, wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef), vegetables, some fruits in moderation, nuts and seeds, small servings of starchy vegetables (like sweet potatoes, yams, plantains), and plenty of healthy fats from coconut products, avocados or extra-virgin olive oil, for example.

While the Paleo diet isn’t necessarily a low-carbohydrate diet, since it puts all processed foods, sugars, grains, beans and legumes off the table, it naturally means your eating way less carbs. Your muscles receive the glucose they need to repair themselves in the form of plenty of veggies, fruits and some natural starches, but in the meantime, the lower-carb intake and higher protein/fat fills you up and helps with fat-burning.
How to Start Doing CrossFit Workouts

If you choose to visit a CrossFit center or follow a protocol you find online, you’ll find that CrossFit workouts are usually done by following the “Workout of the Day,” also called the WOD. WODs can seem a bit confusing if you’re new to CrossFit, so here’s how they work:

First, it helps to get the basic terminology down. A “rep” (or repetition) is one iteration of a movement, such as one bench press or one squat. A “set” is a group of reps, such as 10 reps or squats. Each WOD usually features a certain number of sets of various movements. The pattern is to complete the sets, rest, repeat, rest, repeat and so on.

The amount of time for resting between sets depends on a few different factors, like your ability to recover and the primary goal of the WOD. Sometimes you might want to try having your WOD be timed, so in this case your rest time between sets would likely be shorter so you can complete the entire CrossFit workout quicker.

If you attend a class at a CrossFit Box, a WOD description might be written in several different ways. For example, doing a WOD in “rounds” would translate to doing a set of several exercises, resting and then repeating the whole circuit again. As an example, this type of WOD could be written as “21-15-9” which would indicate you perform one exercise 21 times, followed by another exercise 21 times and so on. Then you start from the beginning and do the first exercise 15 times, second exercise 15 times, etc.

If you choose to do a CrossFit-style workout on your own, start by practicing moves you’re more familiar with without added weights. Begin gradually by doing lower reps, until you become more physically able to handle higher reps or adding additional weight. Some compound movements to include in your WODs that will train large groups of muscles at once and torch calories are:

Various pieces of exercise equipment might also be used during a CrossFit workout, since basically any high-intensity program can be done in a CrossFit style. This allows for even more versatility and for you to create an effective workout anywhere, whether it be outside, at a track, in your garage or in a basement. Some basic equipment to consider purchasing if you want to take your workouts to the next level include:

Because CrossFit is challenging to your muscles, you need to make sure to schedule “rest days” so your muscles recover. Some common examples of a weekly schedule might be cycling three days on/one day off, or five days on/two days off. Your exact workout schedule will depend on your intensity, goals and ability to recover.
What Are the Potential Risks of CrossFit Workouts?

There’s recently been a lot of criticism as to the potential injuries associated with CrossFit training. According to a 2013 study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning, risks being tied to CrossFit workouts include rhabdomyolysis and musculoskeletal injuries. However, the researchers point out that to date no evidence exists in medical journals to show that CrossFit injury rates are higher than those of other forms of high-intensity exercise. (3)

After a total of 132 online questionnaires were completed amongst international CrossFit forums, data showed that an injury rate of 3.1 per 1000 hours trained was calculated. Injury rates with CrossFit training seem to be similar to those reported for sports such as Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting and gymnastics, and lower-contact sports such as rugby. Among the reported injuries, shoulder and spine injuries predominate.

To keep yourself safe and prevent injuries or overtraining, make sure to properly warm up, stretch after a workout and give yourself enough time to recover.

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