Higher Intensity Sessions

All too often I hear people say that “I don’t have enough time to exercise” or “I am too busy to find time to train”. After asking people why this is, they often assume that you need to spend hours in the gym slogging away, for instance, on a cross trainer or treadmill. I then enquire about the type of training they do in the gym and the intensity they train at. The regular response is often something similar to “I spend 45 minutes on the cross trainer and then 30 minutes on the rowing machine and am sweating at the end”.

Therefore, it appears that the assumption (wrongly!!) is that it’s the quantity of the exercise and not the quality that counts. This could be one of the reasons why people spend hours and hours (for weeks, months and even years) labouring away on Cardio machines (namely treadmill, cross trainer and stepper) but not seeing any real results.

Speak to any of my clients, and they will tell you that I favour shorter, high-intensity sessions over longer, low intensity sessions. Do not get me wrong; longer, low intensity sessions have their place, for instance when training for a marathon, when recovering from an injury/surgery or when new to exercise and building a base of fitness. However, there are three main reasons why I favour shorter, but higher intensity workouts:

  1. They are much more time effective,
  2. They provide a more challenging workout,
  3. They help to prevent boredom.

Incorporating higher intensity training into your exercise routine will provide you with a challenging workout in a short space of time. For instance, you might do 10 lots of 45 second sprints and 30 seconds recovery walking on the treadmill (or outside), which will provide you with a challenging workout in no more than 20-25 minutes (with warm up and cool down). We all live busy lives, with for instance, working, family, running a house etc. Therefore, it is much more effective and less time consuming to commit to 20-30 minutes of higher-intensity exercise than say 60-90 minutes of lower-intensity exercise. This I have found helps to remove the frequent reason I hear from people of “I do not have enough time to exercise”.

Higher intensity training will challenge you and get you out of your comfort zone. Go in any gym or see people exercising outside and you will see numerous examples of people ‘going through the motions’ when training. They are not challenging themselves and simply do the same level of intensity of training session after session. Therefore, their body adapts to the level of intensity (often low to medium) that is being exerted on it and there is no progression in terms of fitness, strength, weight loss etc. However, by employing a more higher intensity training plan the body is constantly being challenged both physically and mentally (see next paragraph) and does not adapt to the exercise as easily as when people do longer more low intensity sessions. You will burn high amounts of calories and will elevate your heart rate to get a fantatstic CV workout.

“I find my workout boring/tedious” is a statement I often hear people saying with regard to their exercising. Personally (and from feedback from my clients) spending hours plodding away on the same exercise e.g. out running or on the same piece of CV equipment, is not enjoyable, stimulating and is boring and tedious. Therefore, to keep you engaged both mentally and physically, aim to incorporate higher intensity training into your workout. This will keep your body both physically and mentally guessing and will lessen the risk of your training becoming boring and tedious. Yes higher interval training is challenging (and hard work) but the results will speak for themselves.

As a starter, aim to build up your strength and fitness using higher intensity training. For instance, on the rowing machine, treadmill or cross trainer you could do:

  • 30 seconds of fast rowing at 70-80% Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) and then 30 seconds of recovery rowing at 30-40% MHR and then repeat this 4-6 times. You can then progress this by increasing the duration of the fast rowing sprint to say 45 seconds, or the % MHR to near 80% or reduce the recovery time to 25 seconds.

You could also incorporate higher intensity training into your resistance/weight training, for instance:

  • 30 seconds of lunges, followed immediately by 20 seconds of press ups, followed immediately by 30 seconds of squats, followed immediately by 20 seconds of shoulder presses, followed immediately by 30 seconds of Burpees, followed immediately by 20 seconds of chest presses. Then rest for 30-40 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.]

So there you go, longer but lower intensity sessions have their place but when you are next planning your training aim to use shorter but higher intensity sessions to push your strength and fitness progress onto the next level.

Keep up the great work,



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"Matt's enthusiasm, knowledge and commitment has helped me to get to where I am today. He keeps in regular touch during the week and is always there to answer any questions or to give you that extra motivational push on days when you might need it. "