Athletics & Community Blog

Athletics & Activities Blog – October 16

Think you don’t have time for a meaningful workout?  You’re wrong.

I’ve been an endurance athlete for all of my adult life.  After sprinting and jumping at university my freshman year, I switched over to running the mile and I joined the cross country team.  I never looked back.  I’ve used exercise to make a living, to maintain my fitness, and to control my anxiety.

But in the past couple of years, I noticed that my long runs and rides were not keeping the weight off the way they used to.  I couldn’t seem to get rid of extra pounds that were creeping up on me each year.  When I went home this past summer from Yangon, I was eight pounds heavier than I was when I arrived here just a few months earlier.  No matter how many miles I logged on mountain trails, I just couldn’t seem to drop the weight.

But then quarantine happened.

When I couldn’t get outside and ride my bike or run for several weeks in a row, I did what many of us are doing these days: I turned to youtube for help.  I started shorter but more intense workouts right there in my hotel room.  I had nothing but comfortable clothes, a good pair of shoes and a hotel towel on the floor…and time.  I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands.  Ironically, it wasn’t more time I needed.  It was more intensity.

I’m sure by now most of you have heard about HIIT workouts: High Intensity Interval Training.  According to the BBC’s Science Focus magazine, “HIIT is highly adaptable for varying fitness levels and goals, which partly explains its popularity among everybody from elite athletes to cardiac rehab patients. It can be performed on gym equipment such as static bikes, treadmills and rowing machines (cardio HIIT), or via exercises such as press-ups (bodyweight HIIT).” (Millar, 2019)

HIIT workouts are made up of short bursts of exercise followed by brief periods of rest.  45 seconds hard, 15 seconds rest, for example.  Tabata workouts are considered HIIT workouts and they are done for just 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest…over and over and over.  These workouts are hard, but they are quick. You can get a great workout in 20 minutes, or push it to one hour.  No more slogging it out on the treadmill or spin bike for long, boring rides or runs (although those workouts have their place depending on your training goals).   In fact, “HIIT beats continuous moderate-intensity exercise when it comes to releasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that protects nerve cells. This promotes plasticity (the forming of new connections, which aids learning and memory) and may even help regulate eating, drinking and body weight.”  (Millar, 2019)

So it’s a workout that benefits your brain AND your muscles. 

Since early August, I have dropped the weight I put on last year – all of it – and added muscle mass back that I thought I would never see again.  I was starting to chalk up my lack of muscle mass to my age, but I was wrong.  I was just not working out properly.  I am doing HIIT workouts at least twice a week, in addition to running, biking and swimming (when possible) and actually feeling stronger than I have in a couple of years. 

I know HIIT workouts are all the rage right now, but they’ve actually been around for a long time.  The Finns were incorporating interval training into their running workouts over a century ago.  That said, HIIT’s recent surge in popularity is important because “HIIT has been shown to improve fitness, cardiovascular health, cholesterol profiles and insulin sensitivity, which helps stabilize blood glucose or sugar levels – of particular significance to diabetics. HIIT also reduces fat – both abdominal and the deep, visceral kind that engulfs your inner organs – while maintaining muscle mass or, in less active individuals, increasing it.” (Millar, 2019).

But don’t just take my word for it. Give it a try.  These days we’ve got a little extra time on our hands and if 20 minutes of work can help you live longer, lose weight, and increase brain plasticity, then I don’t want to hear your excuses.

Oh, and we will be offering HIIT workouts for adults starting right after October Break.  See you there.

Millar, Jamie. “HIIT Is Changing the Way We Work out, Here’s the Science Why It Works.” BBC Science Focus Magazine, 14 Apr. 2020,

ASAs…for Adults?

Are you an ISY parent, alumni, faculty or staff member who has an idea for a virtual class for adults?  Would you like to teach an art class of some sort, a foreign language, or a fitness class as part of our Community Education program?  Or maybe you know someone who would be a great fit to teach other adults online.

If so, please reach out to me directly at  I’d like to get our Community Education program rolling once again in the next few weeks for parents, alumni, faculty and staff.

Athletics and Community Education Posts