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Get Fit Quick: Ed Coyle on PYP 448

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How much exercise should you get every week? The recommendations vary, but they all circle around 150-300 minutes a week of non-vigorous exercise, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous exercise.

And do you know how many Americans hit those numbers? Fewer than 20 percent.

It makes sense, really. Exercise takes a lot of time, including preparing, warming up, showering, and so on. And you can't exactly grab 30 minutes at lunchtime if you're going to sweat like a gladiator in your next Zoom meeting.

Plus, most people don't like feeling out of breath, or tired, or achy.

But as today's guest points out, the science of exercise hasn't really moved on from its original assumption that long, slow, low-intensity workouts are the gold standard, and are what most of the population should be going for.

Enter the renegade world of HIIT research.

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and it's pretty much the opposite of mainstream exercise science over the past 50 years.

In HIIT, you work really hard – maybe even as hard as you can – for a short amount of time, and then rest until your next set. The advantage is a shorter, more efficient workout that achieves the same health and fitness outcomes as the longer, traditional workouts.

Six years ago, I interviewed one of the research pioneers behind HIIT, McMaster University's Martin Gibala. His workout, radical at the time, involved 20-second periods of high intensity repeated three times in a short span of time, for a total of one minute a day, three days a week.

The popular press got their hands on the idea and pushed it as a “minimum workout” for busy and lazy people. But 20 seconds is still a long time, and many folks found the workouts to be highly unpleasant, even if they were unpleasant for just half a minute at a time.

So today's guest, Ed Coyle, a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology & Health Education at the University of Texas at Austin, wondered what the shortest useful interval would be. And he discovered that four seconds does the trick.

Not only that, 4-second intervals allow for higher efficiency, less fatigue and soreness, and significant improvements in measures of fitness and health.

NOTE: This is not a “4-second workout,” as the popular press likes to label it. Instead, it's a workout of 20 or so sets of 4-second “go as hard as you can” sprints, taking about 15 minutes total.

As Coyle explains during our conversation, when we work out long and slow, we recruit only half of our muscle fibers – the slow-twitch ones. Four-second HIIT intervals fire up the fast-twitch fibers, which are the ones most susceptible to hypertrophy (wasting) as we age. Plus, those fibers also use glucose and can contribute to fat metabolism, which means onboarding them can combat high blood glucose and hyperlipidemia.

In studies with athletes and aging ordinary people, the gains over 8 weeks of fun and short workouts were remarkable.

In our conversation, we talk about the data, the experience of running the studies, and the exercise bike that's at the center of the work, the Power Cycle. Since the bike isn't yet commercially available and will cost about $2500 when it is, I pressed for free or cheap alternatives that anyone can do to approximate the benefits of the Power Cycle.

We also discussed Coyle's personal workout regimen, and how he combines HIIT with other activities to stay fit as he gets on in years.


The Human Performance Laboratory at U of Texas Austin

The January 2021 study of HIIT with older non-athletes

The New York Times article about Coyle's work

Martin Gibala on Plant Yourself (January 2015)

Looking for Transformational Change?

You know how when you discovered plant-based eating, you basically went, “Holy shit, how come the entire healthcare system isn't totally embracing this as one of the most powerful keys to disease prevention and reversal!”?

That's how I feel now about a psychological approach to transformational change called “Memory Reconsolidation.” Few psychologists have heard about it, and when they do hear the radical transformations it can bring about in a very short time, they're often skeptical to the point of disbelief.

But I've added Memory Reconsolidation work to my own coaching, and can attest to its amazing efficacy. So much so, that I'm devoting the next year to mastering it, studying with the best clinicians and teachers in the world, and then introducing it into health coaching through my trainings.

Right now, I want to triple my coaching practice to get more and more opportunities to do this work. And I'm lowering my fees – a lot – to make it easier for people to work with me.

If you're interested in working with me (and willing to commit to a minimum of 2 months), click the link below to open the form in a new browser tab and I'll get back to you within 3 business days.

Yes, I'm interested in Memory Reconsolidation Coaching.

You CAN Change Other People!

Well, that's what Peter Bregman and I claim in our provocative book of that title.

What we really mean is, you can help the people around you make behavioral changes in their own best interests. If you think you're powerless to help people change, it's because you've been going about it the wrong way.

Discover our straightforward, replicable process here: You Can Change Other People.

Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight

Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.

It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂

Tip Jar

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The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website,


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