This year has been a giving rather than getting year, at least when it comes to skiing. I have been mostly spending my ski days with my four year-old granddaughters, on the beginner’s lift. That has a couple of components. First, we go over some bumps. I scream hysterically, “Oh, no, a big bump is coming, I am so scared!” We go over a small bump and I throw the granddaughter high into the air. They laugh and laugh.
Then we go down the hill. I ski down slightly below them, coach them to make a pizza shape with their skis and try to turn. Generally they just crash into me. Laughing and laughing.
Sometimes we bomb the hill, with me holding them between my skis as we pick up speed. We laugh at speed.
They enjoy it. I enjoy them enjoying it.
But last Friday I had a chance to spend a whole day with some adult friends on a very large ski mountain. We did a lot of high-speed GS type runs down the ridge runs. Some of the hills had bumps, and some were fairly smooth. I kept going all day long, never stopping, and earning the admiration of my friends who were impressed with my leg strength.
Since I haven’t actually skied this year, how could I do that? What kind of exercise will give you the leg strength to have a big day?
HIIT. High Intensity Interval Training.
There is a good deal of research suggesting that intensity is more important than total time when it comes to fitness.
I ride the stationary bike in the basement. I warm up for a couple of minutes, then I cycle at my maximum effort for thirty seconds. Then I cycle slowly for a minute. I repeat the thirty second sprint interval. Then I recover for a minute.
I can do ten intervals in fifteen minutes. A cool down period of two or three minutes and I am done with my workout. Less than twenty minutes.
This is the same model I followed before I went to Italy with friends. My wife and I biked all over Tuscany and I was one of the strong bikers in the group. One day we went over a mountain range and I was pushing some of our group. I got behind them and pushed on their back or on the luggage rack on the steep hills. After lunch, I decided to pace the fastest rider in the group.
All afternoon I was right behind him as we raced for that night’s Agrihotel, an Italian institution that combines a farm with a hotel. (The farm has to produce a certain amount of the food they offer guests.) My riding partner was amazed. “I’d look back to see how far behind you were, and you were always right there!”
(I do admit that drafting a biker is much easier than leading, but still . . .)
But all of that is without long boring workouts. I do two or three interval trainings on the bike each week. I lift weights two times a week, another exercise model that focuses on intensity. I can do six exercises, four sets of each, and be done in thirty minutes.
If you have been thinking of an exercise program, look into HIIT models. Running and biking are easy to incorporate. Start with a day or two a week. Go full out for a half minute. Then recover for a minute or a minute and a half. If you do the ninety second recovery, it is easy to keep track of where you are.
Work up to eight intervals. I am up to ten intervals, but that is because I am not very manly and I have to try harder. If you used a half minute sprint and a minute and a half recovery, the whole workout takes sixteen minutes. Warm up and cool down, and you are only into it twenty minutes. You might want to add some stretching afterwards.
Then go to Italy and impress all your friends.
(This column is not advice, but is for entertainment value only. I encourage you to get a doctor’s checkup before embarking on a fitness program. If you have never exercised and then suddenly start a HIIT program, and drop dead of a heart attack, then don’t be ghosting me, moaning about being taken before your time. I will mock you and laugh at your ghostly attempts to blame me for your own foolishness.)