The Ride I Didn’t Want to Take. And a HIIT Accident.

Sunday morning I woke up at around 9:30 with a good hang over. I shuffled out to the living room where I saw the pizza box surrounded by a couple empty bottles of La Fin du Mond on the coffee table. It’s easy to convince yourself after a couple of cocktails that ordering a pizza in the middle of the night is OK because you deserve something good for dieting all week and you’ll work it off at the gym or on your bike. I remember making this rationalization to my wife as I dialed the number for Imo’s Pizza.

I plopped down on the couch and pushed the bottles aside so I could see the TV. My bike seemingly mocks my pain from the corner. I imagine that if it were actually alive it would jump on my chest and lick my face until it was taken outside to play. I flip through a couple of channels and don’t see anything appealing.

After digging around the closet I find shorts, a t-shirt and my cycling shoes I moved back to the couch thinking that I’ve completed one of the more difficult parts of going out for a ride.

I looked over at my bike and thought its now or never so I pumped up the tires and carried it down the stairs. I know what your thinking, he hasn’t ridden his bike in so long the tires are flat. Thats not exactly true, it just rolls faster with a touch over 100psi and road bike tires lose air pretty quickly.

So there I was on the street, I pulled out onto Grand and got in the bike lane. This hurts, I thought as I clicked into an easier gear, I’ll just ride to the 7-Eleven and get something to drink and loaf around the park for a bit.

I left the 7-Eleven after a few swallows of Gatorade and headed away from the park and towards the city. I went through a few neighborhoods and after I started sweating I felt a bit better. The fresh air and gorgeous temperatures paired with some exercise were doing wonders for my hang over.

I clicked down a gear, stole a glance at the Polar CS600 cycling computer and realized I was cruising at around 18mph with a cadence of 90rpm. Hmm, I’m actually out on a ride, lets see where this goes. I peddled out of the neighborhood I was in and towards where I knew I’d run into some hills.

My heart rate is at 150bpm and I see a huge hill. I click the iPod Shuffle through a couple of songs and end up stopping at one of my favorite Mastondon songs: Blood and Thunder. It’s metal and excruciatingly heavy and fast but it sets the perfect cadence for a long climb. Half way up the hill my Polar is beeping at me because my heart rate has redlined. I can feel the lactic acid burning in my legs.

I click down a gear and jump out of the saddle. I’m enjoying this and making my legs suffer more for even thinking about complaining and slowing down. The song crescendos and my cadence picks up even more. I crest the hill and tapper the speed a little to help my heart rate go back to something manageable. I can feel the lactic acid in my legs being swept away as my breathing slows.

I’ve been out for over an hour now and decide to point the bike towards a series of hills that head back into the city. I figure I’m already out here and starting to feel pretty good so I should do some intervals on the hills.

I get to the first one and blow past the anaerobic threshold (AT) were my legs start burning energy without oxygen.

An all out sprint, which requires a great deal of power output in a short period of time, uses the anaerobic system. The energy is quickly available, but the anaerobic pathways are not very efficient; short term energy stores are rapidly depleted, lactic acid builds up, and exercise soon comes to a halt. After a brief rest, the system is recharged and ready for the next sprint. Distance work, which requires a steady power output over a long period of time, uses the aerobic system. These pathways can’t generate the speed of the anaerobic, but they do possess a great deal more efficiency and endurance. Depending upon the distance, and effort, the body can use different proportions of both of these systems.

Riding down the backside of the hill I spin quickly to help nice clean blood to flow to my legs. As soon as I’ve recovered I’m banging up the next hill again. I’m doing whats called HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) or sprint interval training is an exercise strategy that is intended to improve performance with short training sessions.

A HIIT session involves a warmup period, several short, maximum-intensity efforts separated by moderate recovery intervals, and a cooldown period. The period of alternating effort and recovery intervals typically lasts a total of 15 minutes.

Studies have shown this method to be more effective at burning fat and maintaining, or building, muscle mass than high-volume, lower intensity aerobic work-outs. A study by Gibala et al demonstrated 2.5 hours of sprint interval training produced similar biochemical muscle changes to 10.5 hours of endurance training and similar endurance performance benefits. According to a study by King, HIIT increases the resting metabolic rate (RMR) for the following 24 hours due to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, and may improve maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max) more effectively than doing only traditional, long aerobic workouts. Long aerobic workouts have been promoted as the best method to reduce fat, as fatty acid utilization usually occurs after at least 30 minutes of training. HIIT is somewhat counter intuitive in this regard, but has nonetheless been shown to burn fat more effectively. There may be a number of factors that contribute to this, including an increase in RMR, and possibly other physiological effects.

I’ll write an article on this soon that explains the weight loss advantages but for now back to my story.

After the hills I head towards a nice flat rolling road and I am on my way home. I’m feeling quite good and now longer have a headache. I make the turn onto Grand Boulevard and cruise slowly looking over my shoulder to see if my wife is on her way home. I’d hate for her to see me loping along at 12mph and think if I see her car I’ll crank it up and race her through the traffic.

She is already home and greets me at the door. I jump in the shower as I tell her about my ride. It was marvelous I say as I think about how much I thought it was going to hurt when I left.

Its amazing how just getting out there is the hardest part. But once I do its equally amazing how much fun it can be and how it can really make you feel better. Like Ellen, Laura and others here have said just lace up your shoes and go. I usually find that by the time your halfway to your original goal you start to feel energized and end up on a two hour ride instead of a twenty minute one.