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Kathy Smith on HIIT Fit Trend

By Richard Smith
Posted On Jul 23, 2014

Fitness legend Kathy Smith is all about results, and assures us that few modern approaches deliver like metabolic training.

BY Marilyn DeMartini

Kathy Smith has made it her business to act as guinea pig for the many methods that spring up within the health and fitness industry. When she encounters a philosophy without merit, she lets it fall to the wayside. And when a new fitness trick offers value, she incorporates it into her time-tested routine. These days, this 62-year-old single mother of two—who barely looks 40—is all about one thing: metabolic training.
“The word ‘metabolic’ translates to the breaking down of food into energy,” Smith says. The high-intensity interval training (or HIIT) uses “bursts” or “push” sessions that alternate intense levels of exercise and brief rest periods, in timed intervals. The protocol yields amazing results. Just ask any speed and performance athlete.

Why the great results with HIIT? We burn more calories working at peak levels, alternating between active rest periods. The added benefit is the residual calorie burn after the workout—referred to as the EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption). As your cells continue to need more oxygen, they are multiplying and working harder after the workout. Smith notes HIIT is catching on in programs such as CrossFit, P90X, and Tabata training. “These metabolic workouts indicate that something new is happening, which can change our workouts, our bodies, and our weight,” she says.

If you properly prepare for a high-intensity workout, benefits such as increased stamina, strength, and accelerated caloric burn-off will soon follow. However, poor preparation can lead to injury. Smith suggests adapting a training system used by athletes that cycles movements (repititions, volume, and intensity, for example) that allows them to build strength and rest, according to the seasonal demands of their sport.

Once this program is established, she suggests building strength by adding resistance. Follow this by building speed and then adding “push” to the normal level of training with resistance, incline, or speed. Follow with rest. The body requires time to heal, and to avoid injury.

Fabio Comana, director of continuing education for the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), says that women handle exercise differently than men. Therefore, they need to approach workouts in their own way.

Estrogen can, in certain circumstances, limit the conversion of glucose to adenosine triphospate, the coenzyme that “powers” cells. Women also have fewer “fast-twitch” fibers, less muscle mass, and lower blood volume—factors that can add “drag” to one’s athletic performance and endurance.
Comana says women benefit from high intensity training, though they may need longer periods of recuperation between intervals. He recommends an evaluation of fitness level before embarking on a program. “A professional can identify weaknesses through movement evaluations and prepare the body for intense training,” he says.

While Smith recognizes the biological and physical differences between women and men, she encourages women to proceed wisely into metabolic training. “Differences shouldn’t stop us,” Smith says.

Smith sees high-intensity training as just one tool in a vast toolbox, designed to keep us at the top of our game. “High-intensity intervals can help us achieve our fitness goals in a time crunch, or when we are trying to train for something special. But let’s not lose sight of our long-term goal: life-long fitness. For a healthy life, exercise—at high or moderate intensity—is non-negotiable.”

Kathy’s HIIT Tips

Run or cycle to achieve the top level of intensity, and then scale back a bit for your recovery phase. If you don’t run or bike, you can walk your way to high-intensity intervals.

Try LeanWalk, Smith’s 3-part series of one-hour audio workouts, which gradually incorporates a higher intensity metabolic workout (kathysmith.com). New You readers can download the MP3 files for free until March 23, 2014, using the code, NEWYOUSPECIAL. Along with exercises, the workouts include motivating music, messages, and tips on how to use your muscles and clear your head.