Why the Stair Mill?

The Stair Mill (aka Stair Climber – the rotating stair machine) is one of my favorite ways to do High Intensity Interval training. Unlike most cardio machines (with the exception of the treadmill), you have to work against gravity to move your body, increasing your calorie burn by requiring your core and major leg muscles to work hard. Even if you don’t feel like tackling a H.I.I.T. routine on this machine, I highly recommend trying it out the next time you’re thinking about getting on the elliptical or the bike.

Why High Intensity Intervals?

High Intensity Interval training is widely thought to be the most effective way to burn fat. When you’re working at close to maximum effort, your muscles require more oxygen than you can bring in during that intense activity. After the workout, your body needs to “catch up”on all that oxygen consumption to return to normal, so your metabolism must work overtime for hours after you’ve left the gym. This is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

Because you’re exercising at such a high intensity, you also don’t need to workout for very long; your heart rate is going to be way higher and burn more calories than the equivalent time doing lower intensity work. Studies show that doing just 27 minutes of H.I.I.T. 3 times a week accomplishes the same anaerobic and aeorbic improvement as 60 minutes of cardio 5 times a week!

The intervals are important: you can’t sustain maximum effort for a full 30 minutes. When I started to measure my heart rate regularly this year, I was amazed at being able to observe how effective these intervals are. As you’ll see below (particularly the last 10 minutes), even if I am only doing challenging work for 50% of the workout, my heart-rate remains in the max-effort zone during those slow intervals as well. If you can gun it for a minute, than you can spend the next minute walking, and still burn the same amount of calories as if you were still sprinting. I find this efficiency very appealing, and sometimes it’s also easier for me mentally to take it one minute at a time rather than face a 60 minute run, even if the H.I.I.T. workout will actually be harder.

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During the last 10 minutes of the workout, you’re not actually exerting at maximum intensity anymore, but your heart rate remains very high. The graph below shoes my heart rate during this workout, and check out those last 10 minutes – even though I wasn’t sprinting the whole time, my heart was working as hard as if I was. I didn’t fully “get” H.I.I.T. workouts until I saw this data.

hr graph

Pilates Ab Routine

This was a pretty challenging routine (Abs on Fire is an accurate name) but can easily be modified by reducing the reps in half. The printable workout is below, but you can follow along with Cassey by doing the video here.

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