Why I like High Intensity Training Part 1

“Without health life is not life; it is only a state of langour and suffering – an image of death.”

– The Buddha

I had a lot to say in this post, so I broke it up into two parts.  Part 1 will discuss my beginnings and how I got started.  Part 2 will describe how it helped me.  I hope you enjoy!

The research backs it up.  Professor James Timmons, PhD., in his Horizon special and in subsequent lectures provides overwhelming evidence that supports the effectiveness of HIIT protocols.  Dr. McGuff with John Little do so as well in their book, Body by Science.  Anecdotally, there are an increasing number of trainers who advocate this type of training, and their clients are benefitting tremendously as a result.

So I won’t bore you with the statistics or graphs, but instead would like to share my transition into this approach to training and my experiences and discoveries along the way.  So we will predicate this on how I used to train… overtrain, to be more accurate, and then what I experienced after I made the shift.

Growing up, I was always playing  a sport every season. As a result, there were usually overlaps.  So naturally, there were plenty of times when I was pulling double duty, usually going to two practices the same night, playing a game, and then if there was time, going to the next practice, etc.  God bless my mum for all the driving to and from.  But high school was when it got really busy, especially the first couple years.  There was high school football, flag football, and then of course, our hockey-obsessed culture, so the irony that try-outs would be going on in September before the first official day of autumn is not lost on me.  I loved playing all these sports and enjoyed every second of it.  I did not enjoy the hamstring cramps when I would get home and try and sit down for dinner, but that seemed like a small price to pay to do it all.  The start of high school and the access to the small weight room also began my strength training.  I wanted to be the best, and I had no problem with outworking my competitors.

Of course, like every kid starting out… I basically did what the bodybuilders did (of course, I mean Arnold, not Mike Mentzer or Dorian Yates). So it was lots of reps, lots of sets, split training, the list goes on.  If I wasn’t at a practice, or a game, I was in the weight room.  My coach was aware of this and spent many afternoons telling me to go home!  But I had to run through the hurdles just one more time (yeah, I said through–not much technique in getting over them). So I basically spent a large part of high school always feeling a little stiff and needing good warm-ups before competing.  In college it didn’t change… in fact, it got worse.  There were the weights, plyometrics, then practice.  Our coach wasn’t the most efficient at time-management, so naturally, practices had to be 3 hours. If I dropped a ball, I did pushups.  I wasn’t the best on the team… didn’t even crack the starting line-up, but I knew if I could outwork everybody, that would change.  I’ll spare you the suspense… It didn’t. I went through college basically feeling like hammered dog #$@^.  Not to mention that I seemed to be injury-prone, and not because the linebacker who had 50 pounds on and lit me up like a Christmas tree every practice–although that didn’t help.  It was the soft tissue injuries. The pulls, the sprains, the shin splints that got so bad my junior year I couldn’t walk for two weeks (I’ve always wondered if it was not a cracked tibia). I strained my Achilles one winter in the Detroit airport heading back to college for indoor track season. Obviously from carrying my luggage, but still, how does a guy who was training 3-4 hours a day do that just picking up 50 lbs. of luggage?  Needless to say, the idea of overtraining never occurred to me despite my body repeatedly breaking down and getting injured. Not to mention, although fit, I did not look like Arnold or bench press 500 lbs. or outrun Ben Johnson.  In fact, in a couple of track seasons, I actually think I got slower; so did some of the really fast guys on our team, which speaks volumes to “old school” training in general.  But the point I’m trying to make is I trained long, hard, and since I didn’t take any steroids, I was my own worst enemy.

Then, after college, I reconnected with my true love… Rugby, and was working as a P.E. teacher. Naturally, I wanted to be good at my job and bust the stereotype of many P.E. teachers in the industry and instead, be a good role model, practice what I preach, and be the best goddamn weekend warrior I could be.   On a side note, anyone who has played rugby will tell you that “rugby fitness” is an enigma! You will never be in enough shape and there will always be someone in better shape than you.  Rugby conditioning is Coach Bear Bryant’s wet dream! So I couldn’t train as long as I did in college, but I still hit the gym every night after work and before rugby practices.  I did that for 3 or 4 years.  Even in my glorious summers off, I was at the gym and the track for a couple of hours each day before I hit the community pool with my book.  And then, something was about to change.  My old man was busy, overweight, etc., but knew he needed to do something, so instead of doing what I told him to do, he went about finding his own solution.  I was aware of John Little’s work regarding “max-contraction” training and had stumbled across Pete Sisco’s work as well.  I decided to try these concepts out for myself before I sent them my Pop’s way, and I was seeing some good strength gains, so the one summer I showed my old man the protocols and explained how it was only once a week.  This led to my Pop doing a lot of his own research into the world of High Intensity Training and Mark Scisson’s work regarding the Paleo Tribe. That’s when he came across Dr. McGuff’s book, so after reading it myself upon his recommendation, I gave it a shot.  I was skeptical and honestly didn’t think that only training once a week would do it.  I agreed with the overtraining.  The book uses a lot of pee-wee hockey examples I could relate to, but surely more volume had to be in the cards–at least, a greater frequency than only once a week.  But the book is great and very convincing, and so I gave it a go.

So what happened?   Tune in next time.  Same Blog time.  Same Blog page.

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