Saturday, February 1, 2014

2:32 PM

This year-long, Self-Health Project has two key elements, a Fitness Element wherein I focus on a single type of exercise for a month, and a Dietary Element, wherein I focus on a particular style of eating that research would suggest has some health benefits. Today marks the beginning of Month Two of my Fitness Project.

Fitness Focus: High-Intensity Interval Training
So I know we all got a little too excited last fall when we read the NYT article entitled The Scientific 7 Minute Workout and the underlying article published by the American College of Sports Medicine: High-Intensity Circuit Training Using Body Weight- Maximum Results With Minimal Effort. What is not to love about a study that finds that doing a combination of 12 exercises at max effort for 7 minutes can meet all of your fitness needs (especially if you have to read faaaaar into the article to see that they actually recommend that you work out for 20 minutes each session, or 3x7 minutes)?

Regardless if its is for 7 or 20 minutes, the concept of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is not a new one and it forms a key element of elite and amateur training programs for most sports. Its wide and growing popularity as part of fitness-for-the-masses is largely due to its efficiency and practicality when balanced against the needs of an ever-more time-constrained society. The combination of aerobic and resistance training in a high-intensity, limited-rest design fitness program has been shown to deliver numerous health benefits in much less time than traditional exercise programs, including weight loss, decreased body fat, and improved insulin sensitivity, VO2 max, and muscular fitness.

Again, what is not to love, especially since HIIT has been popularized and commercialized into a variety of HIIT classes and styles (GRIT, P90X, Insanity, Boot Camp, Cross-Fit, Tabata, TRX, NTC just to name a few) that are available at most gyms and through various DVDs and apps? Now, as never before, the opportunities to push and fine-tune your body are everywhere and that is what this month will be about. I am excited for the challenge, and for the variety to come. Also, a little more muscle-definition would be great after last month's yoga-softening.

Dietary Focus: Gluten-Free
I know, I know...we all know someone who all of a sudden developed a serious allergy to gluten (i.e., a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species) and then talked endlessly about how great they felt and how much more energy they had after cutting gluten from their diets. Never having had an allergic reaction to food in my life, I initially rolled my eyes (inwardly) at their claims and went about my bread/pasta/cookie binges, wondering at their discipline. I also noticed with some irony how many of the products I had always purchased suddenly started sprouting little "g" symbols and proclaiming things like "Always Been Gluten Free!".

As time went on, I did appreciate the validity of some of my friend's claims, especially as I began to read that things like major hormonal changes in the body (e.g., pregnancy), the impacts of antibiotics, and the increased prevalence of GMO food was exacerbating gluten intolerance among the general population. Of course, for everyone who has a real allergy or celiac disease issue there are many out there (myself included this month) who see gluten-free as a judgement-free synonym for "low-carb" and are pursuing it for less than purely health-related reasons. In fact going unnecessarily "gluten-free" was lampooned as one of the worst health trends of 2013, in part because  "Gluten-free foods aren't automatically better for you, and plenty of them can make you gain pounds... when food manufacturers remove gluten, they add in fat and sugar to help the food maintain its shape."

No matter the dissenters, I have eaten some delicious gluten free food at the table of friends and relatives over the last few years and am interested to give it a try this month. If it helps me kick some of my carbohydrate addiction then all the better.

So there it is, the Fitness Project for February. Let's see how it goes, shall we?

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