The science of high intensity interval training convinced Liz Nierzwicki to create a better way to workout and challenge the aging process.
MISHAWAKA, IN—Anne McConville’s lower back always ached. Her Ironman brother-in-law was persistent in reminding her to work on her core, considering all the miles she logged as a marathon runner.
If you love to run—really love to run—then that is how you want to spend all your precious workout minutes. But the catch, especially as we age, is that in order to protect your body, you must dedicate time off-road cross training the body’s systems.
Anne discovered figureFIT™, a high intensity interval training (HIIT) class offered at Solace Yoga Studio in Mishawaka. After a year and a half, her back no longer hurts—whether at her desk or on the run. Coincidently, she dropped 10 minutes off her marathon time without adding any more running miles to her regimen.
Steve Whetstone had back surgery not much more than a year ago. After physical therapy his prescription was to “stay active.” Last May he began going to a figureFIT™ class because it was easy to accommodate the moves as his strength increased. The online class component was also significant, as he could keep consistent with the workouts at different gyms or in a hotel when he traveled. He calls it simply, “A killer transformation.”
Solace owner Liz Nierzwicki saw the advantages to HIIT training even before she opened her yoga studio six years ago. The science behind it just made sense.
“I realized when I turned 35 my body started to change. My metabolism slowed down and I gained weight more easily,” Liz said. HIIT was emerging then in the industry with the science to back the claims of metabolic enhancement and performance improvements. Liz had always lifted weights, but now she dug in to formulate what became figureFIT™, a week of workouts focusing on all the major muscles. She also included the critical bursts of cardio to challenge heart rate —the perfect blend to boost metabolism and burn fat.
“Once I started working out this way, my body started changing,” Liz said. She began to feel more powerful, even surprising herself when she won a female division at a competition for which she hadn’t specifically trained. “That showed me my new workouts were really effective for my overall fitness level.”
Science Does Matter
HIIT affects the body’s three energy systems that produce Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP,) the body’s main fuel.
- Phosphagen system—high power/short duration: In the fitness world, think burpee. This system runs out within 10 seconds.
- Glycolytic system—moderate power/short duration. Once initial stores of ATP are depleted, the body shifts to the glycogen stored in its muscles and converts it to ATP. This system lasts about 60 seconds before it runs out.
- Oxidative system—low power/long duration. This is the body’s ongoing energy that propels the heart, circulatory and digestive systems, ever tapping into the glucose system for fuel because it must always keep going.
The body can turn on any of the three systems with the start of an activity. What dictates which one (or two) is used the most is the effort required from that activity.
Liz considers marathon runners like Anne (before HIIT) as chronic oxidative users who never train their phosphagen or glycolytic systems. “If you never change it up and do HIIT or lift weights, then you never train the first two energy systems,” she said.
Once Anne began to train the systems that serve fast movement bursts of cardio and muscle work, her phosphagen system sparked a faster use of ATP and glycogen converted to ATP more efficiently as well. It was no surprise to Liz that Anne’s running speed increased and endurance improved, because all three energy systems were better trained.
The other scientific aspect of HIIT is EPOC—excess post exercise oxygen consumption and VO2 max. “In real ATP training, we want you gasping for air by the time you are finished with a set,” Liz said. “Then you stop, recover and go at it just as hard again.” The more you challenge the body’s oxygen intake during exercise, the more it will need to replace that oxygen post exercise. This is where the continued caloric burning comes into play, as your body works to return its systems to normal.
The body has a certain amount of oxygen it can hold and use during intense exercise. This type of training increases our VO2 max, and theoretically, the more oxygen you can use during exercise, the more ATP you can produce.”
Understanding the baseline of the science and how it works with the body gave Liz the knowledge to put together the figureFIT™ concept for building strength, power and speed. The class covers six to eight moves in one workout, then three circuits. ”First we’ll do an ATP move (say burpees) followed by a resistance move that builds muscle (say bicep curls) and then another ATP move and then repeat before a one three-minute recovery break.” Liz says it is a 500-600-plus calorie burn per class, plus the additional 36-hour EPOC effect.
figureFIT™ classes are offered at Solace Yoga Studio, but Liz developed the program to also serve participants off-site. At figureFitLife.com, participants can sign up to get the monthly workouts. The program also covers other fitness and lifestyle needs such as nutrition and stress management techniques such as yoga and meditation.