Too Old for HIIT

We grew too old, Susan and me. I worked at the fitness center, not in the gym or the pool, but upstairs with the management. I worked out the finances. Twice a week, I biked in before sunrise to instruct spin classes. These are in the news lately, spin classes, the online ones. Peloton made and then lost a bazillion bucks with these. When the fitness centers closed with covid, celebrities and everyone else flocked to online spin. Recently the fitness centers reopened, and Mr. Big dropped dead in a Peloton class. The star is fading.

Daily, at lunchtime, I emerged from upstairs, I broke away from the group known unaffectionately throughout the company as They or Them—as in They won’t lease a replacement treadmill, why don’t you take it up with Them. I scuttled down the long, steep stairs in my khakis and polo shirt, the stairs old people like me still use today to stretch their calves, the stairs that bootcamps ran despite my concerns over liability extensive accidents.  

At lunchtime I lifted weights—fifteen minutes, just until the sweating started. You can make notable gains in fifteen minutes if you do it every day. The rest of my exercise was running outdoors. Never on a treadmill, I viewed treadmill runners with disdain.

Near the end of my employment, the fitness center offered HIIT. That’s High Intensity Interval Training. Susan loved HIIT. She returned home red-faced and sweaty, jacked up from her class “HIIT-IT!” she yelled every time she walked into the house. I liked it too. I saw it as an opportunity to show off in front of a room full of younger people. Lean, corded leg muscles, cut arms and shoulders, boundless energy. I was a poster-child for old people.

This morning I went to spin. We rejoined the fitness center in November after a four-year break. Eli wanted to lift weights after school with his crew. Susan wanted to take yoga classes. I shrugged my shoulders, “OK, I’ll spin.” My fitness has been in a years-long slide. Ever since I quit working as a spin instructor, I’ve softened. I see this gym membership as an opportunity to get back in shape.

Two weeks ago, Susan and I went to HIIT. It’s a hard class: twenty seconds of all out activity, then ten seconds of rest—eight exercises, four sets. A warm up, a cool down, and a minute to gulp water between sets. The whole thing takes a half an hour. Burpees, sit-ups and crunches, high-knee running in place, and jumps, lots of jumps. The next day, I couldn’t raise my arm over my head. My laundry list of prior injuries leaves me susceptible to new injuries, re-injuries. Multiple shoulder dislocations over a forty-year span leaves that joint sloppy. Bouncing around, up and down, is a recipe for pain and swelling.

In my mind, I’ve rebranded the class High Impact Interval Training—better suited for thirty-year-olds than sixty-year-olds. The other day, Susan and I walked around our neighborhood. We do this a couple of times a week, nights when neither of us plan any aerobic exercise. She mentioned that her knee was still twinging from the HIIT class. “Wow, I guess we’re too old for HIIT.”

I’ve fought hard against aging out of activities. I’m still running, I just restarted mountain biking a few years ago. Hiking, kayaking, some light weights (that shoulder!)—I’ve modified with age. I think my days of eighteen-mile weekend runs are behind me now, but it’s all still on my activity list. It looks like HIIT is now off limits. It’s the first activity I’ve dropped altogether.

I’m not sure I’m too broken up about it. Thirty minutes isn’t long enough for an exercise session. After forty-five minutes to an hour, I hit a meditative state that benefits me for the rest of the day. I don’t get that from HIIT. And that after exercise glow is my favorite part of the workout. Plus, I’m not fit enough to show off anymore. My tongue drags on the floor along with everyone else’s.

Spin seems to be the best indoor exercise for me. It builds my aerobic capacity, something I sorely need right now for mountain biking. For the past two years I’ve had trouble keeping up with the other riders after I hit the one-hour mark of a ride. Spin is helping bridge the gap between fall and spring. For once, I’d like to start spring more fit than I ended fall.

We’re buying gym memberships three months at a time. I have a hard time believing that I’ll want to ride a bike indoors when warmth and daylight return. But I suspect that Susan and Eli will want to keep using the membership. They can’t just transition yoga and weightlifting outdoors because the weather is nice. Maybe I’ll spin all summer. I did that as a spin instructor, and I’ve never been more fit.

17 thoughts on “Too Old for HIIT

  1. it’s tough when we have to come to grips with our aging bodies. I am a fan of interval training, but it doesn’t have to be high intensity for me. I also like to do circuit training with the weights, but it is annoying when trying to do it at the gym and someone is just sitting on the next piece of equipment I want to use, checking their phone.

    I’ll be curious to hear if you stick with spinning, even when the weather gets better, since I know you love to be riding outside. Me? I love my indoor recumbent bike.

    And poor Peloton…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t been back in the gym since the beginning of lockdown — now two years ago. Instead I use several apps and have built a respectable (especially for a one bedroom apartment that still looks like an apartment not a gym) home setup. I do yoga and HIIT. The app I use is call Fitbod and you can personalize it to your goals, level of fitness, time available, equipment. Then it sets up the workouts for you. I love it. I’m not as strong as I was when I was lifting with a trainer, but I am still pretty damn buff all things considered (i.e. being an old crone and having had a really traumatic last two years). Highly recommend. Never too old if you tailor it!!!

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    • Yes, it’s really the ‘high impact’ issue that I can’t handle. I have a hard time doing online exercise classes like that on my own. Running and biking are different because I’m interacting with the world. I do a fast exercise segment every morning that might be considered HIIT-like. I don’t really like it. I see it like eating my vegetables (back when I didn’t like vegetables).

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  3. I used to ride my bike outside daily in the nice weather and sometimes I took two spin classes in the same day. I have addiction issues. But, I also have a weird resistance to joining Peloton Nation. Probably because I’m frugal, with certain things. But more likely because I sub consciously pick things to rebel against. As if me not getting a Peloton matters in the least to Peloton. I read an article that talked about the people who, during the pandemic, got a puppy, bought a vacation home, did a house renovation, got a Peloton, you get the idea. I did some of those things, except the Peloton. I wear it like a badge of honor. I won’t. Even though many people have said to me that I should get a Peloton because I love to ride. The bottom line is I don’t like working out at home, the equipment causes anxiety about not using it and no plan ever to. I wonder what my next rebellion will be. I wouldn’t upgrade my flip phone for a long time, but finally acquiesced.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Having been around a spin program for about fifteen years, I know that many participants have addiction issues and OCD runs rampant in that community. I have no desire to participate in Peloton either. I’m way to counter-culture for those people. I have a similar phone story, but once I got a smart phone, I became stupidly addicted. WordPress is my worst app.

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  4. Your exercise goals are admirable, and a reminder to me that I really should get back to walking, which is the limit of my exercise. I do somehow manage to take thousands of steps just around my house and yard every day😲 I’m not sure that counts as exercise though.

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  5. HIIT is a strange trend… It’s meant we develop this great fitness for brief, high intensity activity, but little longer lasting endurance. It’s great if you’re short on time and need to burn some energy, but I’m finding that as a training tool to increase capacity to do other activities, it’s not actually that great… I tend to do little HIIT sessions after a proper workout as a final assurance that I’ve actually pushed to my limits, but as a workout in its own? It serves a very specific purpose, one that tired joints probably don’t need. Yay for a return to spin, if only to have human interaction again while exercising, and a bit of competiton to drive you 😊

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    • When I ride really technical sections of trail, I get horribly out of breath. Decades ago before the term HIIT, I used to do rapid supersets of moderately heavy weights (8 reps) with just seconds between sets. I did it fast enough and long enough that it became an cardio workout as well as a strength workout. Man, I’ve got to get back to that. I think I’ll do far less huffing & puffing on the trail. The spin helps a lot though. The push of others in the room (winning) is undeniable.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Mr. Big died? Wow, I just had to Google that. I used to watch that show all the time but didn’t care about it when it came back out. How bout that, though. Huh. I agree that 15 minutes of weight lifting if done consistently, does have a huge impact. I have a certain set of exercises I do with my dumbells while I wait for Declan’s bus to pull up to the house. All my sets really take only about 10-15 minutes. It’s great. There is a part of me that also wants to run as far and as fast as I used to but I’ve had a nagging foot pain for about two years now. Low and slow is still something I guess. HIIT sounds intimidating. When I was deep into my running I would assign each day a certain type of run. HIIT sounds like the day I would run intervals. I don’t miss those. I kind of like that I have a nagging foot pain that prevents something like that ever happening again. I don’t go to my gym anymore but when I did they had a rower that really got my heart rate going. I liked that machine – good calorie burner.

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    • Huh, and I know nothing about the show but have read two or three different articles about Mr Big. Maybe I’d just rather read about pretend news than all the real crap going on. I do my weights and body weight workout in the morning. I really have a hard time getting through it. Too often I skip exercises. I actually once got HIIT certified and used a lot of HIIT strategies in my spin class. I *used to* have so much mental strength.

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  7. This post reminded me of my grandfather. He is pushing towards 90 and the man never missed a workout day! I guess the youngsters around him are threatened by his workout regime. I have always admired his routine. But for some reason I am never able to keep up with gyms. I love working out at home, taking my walks. Personalized routines matter I guess, and following them is the key.

    Liked by 1 person

    • oof, compared to a ninety year old :-(. I hope I can still workout at 90. My father is 90 now and he had to give up on an exercise regime a couple of years ago. It just hurt too much. Aging is rough. Suddenly you can’t do something and you keep trying and it hurts more and more.

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