For the past couple of years I have been doing my HIIT workout (high intensity interval training) religiously. Not because I love it, I don’t. In fact I hate it with a passion. Don’t get me wrong. As a personal trainer, group exercise instructor and wellness coach I really like to exercise, but I find traditional HIIT just plain painful. But if your not a trainer or an exercise aficionado you may be asking yourself, what exactly is HIIT? It’s a workout were you go very hard (80-90% of your maximum effort) for a short period of time (for beginners 10-30 seconds) then actively recover (keep moving but at a much slower pace) for a period of time, then repeat that sequence several times. So why do I do it? Well the benefits are just too good not to do it. Interval training can cut the amount of time needed to do exercise in half while actually improving performance. HIIT is actually more effective for burning fat than aerobic exercise and increases your metabolism for up to 24 hours after finishing your workout. Interval training actually triggers a huge boost in the production of human growth hormone a big plus if you’re over 30 as this is the anti-aging hormone that keeps skin looking young and muscle mass high. Studies even show that it can improve memory and brain function, not to mention its positive effects on heart health and lung capacity. But for me HIIT is a lot like Brussels sprouts…something you force down and move on as quickly as possible.
So I’m always looking for new ways to do interval training in hopes of finding something that I actually like. Recently I stumbled across an article that talked about freestyle gymnastics and showed a few moves that you could do on a trampoline. When I was in college the guys who lived next door to us had a trampoline in the front yard and I spent a lot of time on it doing flips and tricks and found it to be a ton of fun. I knew that there was an indoor trampoline gym in town so I decided to head over there and test out the moves from the magazine. I showed up on Monday morning and was greeted by a nice young lady who informed me it was “Munchkin Monday,” which was the morning special for a time slot when they got mostly the preschool crowd, so the kid’s areas would be busy but the open jump areas would be fairly quiet. I paid the fee and headed over to the open jump area. This place is so cool! It has several huge arenas with approximately 6 foot X6 foot square trampolines fitted together to create a giant trampoline arena. Unlike home trampolines each of the 6×6 trampolines have a spring-loaded frame affording more give. All the frames and springs are covered by 2 inch thick safety pads and the entire arena is surrounded by trampoline walls which means you can literally bounce off the walls and there is no way to fall off the trampoline.
I chose an arena area that was deserted and began to warm up with a few simple jumps and exercises. After a few minutes a young mother and her two kids came in and began to play; the little girl must have been about 3 and the boy couldn’t have been more than 5. These arenas are huge and this one is 12 squares long and 5 deep, so the kids didn’t get in my way and I just kept doing my thing. As I practiced my knee drop to seat drop I heard someone bouncing in my direction. I looked over and the little boy was bouncing on the square next to mine while his mom and sister were hopping around at the other end of the arena. He just kept bouncing and staring.
Finally I said “hi.”
“You like to bounce?” he said.
“Yeah, I like to bounce,” I said, not really knowing where this was headed.
“We come here a lot,” he said, “I really like to bounce.” He kept bouncing and staring.
Finally he said “you don’t do it right.”
“I don’t do what right?” I said.
“Bounce,” he said, “you don’t bounce right. I’ll show you how.” The kid took one little bounce then jumped, and as he landed sank into a deep crouch then exploded up, his hands reaching up to the sky as he pulled his knees up to his chest. He floated for a moment at what was almost head height, and then landed softly, directly in the middle of the next square over. He turned and looked at me with a look that said now it’s your turn.
I took a tentative jump and bounced, getting virtually no air, and landed awkwardly, not anywhere near the center of the next square and fell flat on my face.
“You have to bounce harder,” the kid said, “and don’t fall down.” The kid’s mother called from across the arena asking if Timmy was bothering me.
“No,” I said. “He’s teaching me to bounce.”
Timmy showed me a couple of more times, and then when he thought I had gotten the hang of it he turned and said, “Follow me.” He began to hop from square to square headed for the other side of the arena, so I headed off after him. While Timmy made it look easy I quickly found out it wasn’t. By the time I got half way across the arena I could feel sweat trickling down the back of my neck. Ahead of me, Timmy had reached the end of the arena, had bounced off the wall, changed direction and started back to the other end of the arena in the next row.
“Bet you can’t catch me,” he said as he headed towards me, probably thinking “you don’t have a prayer, old man.” Yep, little Timmy was kicking my butt and I knew it, but I wasn’t going down without a fight. I picked up my pace, ricocheted off the wall and headed after him.
By the time Timmy reached the other end I was only 3 squares behind him, although I don’t think he was trying very hard. I, on the other hand, was. My shirt had a large sweat stain down the middle of the chest, my legs felt like I was wearing ankle weights, and no matter how hard I tried my knees just would not come up to my chest. Timmy bounced off the wall, changed direction and started down the next row of trampoline squares.
“You can go faster than that,” he said as he passed me, his knees finding his chest easily. I bounced off the wall and started down the third row of squares; Timmy had increased his lead to 5 squares and was now doing little twisty movements at the top of his jumps. I was not amused.
Timmy reached the end of the row, rebounded off the wall and headed down the 4th row of squares. Much to my relief his face looked a little flushed and he at least seemed to be breathing hard. I had made up some ground and was only 2 squares behind him. As I bounced off the wall I made a decidedly wet noise and realized my shirt was soaking wet, my feet felt as if someone had tied cement blocks to them and my breath was coming in ragged gasps. In an effort to spur myself on I yelled “I’m coming to get you Timmy!” Timmy looked over his shoulder and giggled then bounced a little higher, which did nothing for my morale.
When Timmy reached the wall I was 2 squares behind him and when he made his turn onto the last row of squares he looked a little surprised at how close I was. But then his eyes lit up and he laughed. I made the turn right behind him and looked up as Timmy hit the afterburners. Before I knew it he was a full 4 squares ahead of me and it was everything I could do just to get down the row without passing out. When I reached the last square my legs felt like Jell-o and my lungs were on fire. It had taken us less than 2 minutes to bounce on all 60 trampoline squares but I was spent. I fell on my back on the trampoline staring up at the ceiling, wondering who the hell had sucked all the oxygen from the room.
The next thing I knew, little Timmy was jumping over me, slalom ski style, and saying “Again, again, let’s do it again!” What I really want to do is reach up and pimp-slap little Timmy, but my arms don’t seem to work, so instead I just lay there like a slug…it was my only defense. Finally Timmy’s mom yelled “Timmy, leave the poor man alone, can’t you see he’s tired? Come over here and drink your juice box.” Timmy stopped bouncing, leaned down and said “Thanks Mister! That was fun!” and bounced over to his mom, sucked down the juice and sprinted down the hall towards the kiddy foam pit.
When I found the strength, I dragged myself across the arena, bought a bottle of water from the vending machine and sat on a bench to contemplate what had just happened. Slowly it dawned on me…Sure, I just gotten my doody pushed in by a preschooler, but it had been fun–really fun. A whole lot more fun than running sprints in the park, throwing sandbags on a beach or doing hill climbs on a spin bike. The race had been part of that fun, but the bouncing had been a blast. Just to test that theory I went back and bounced on all 60 squares in a HIIT workout sequence 2 more times using different jumping techniques for each segment–and it was fun too. Then I headed over to the foam pit and practiced my front flips and back flips (side note: the hardest part about this was getting out of the foam pit. It felt like dragging yourself out of a pit of quick sand). After a little over 30 total minutes in the trampoline gym, I was thoroughly exhausted. I headed out to the car and sipped coconut water until my legs felt stable enough to drive. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw Timmy’s mother packing up the car. In the back seat little Timmy was completely passed out in his car seat.
I saluted little Timmy on a race well won, then contemplated going home and taking my own nap.
Kent Burden is the creator of the “Workout at Work” e-book series. The first two books in the series are “Workout at Work: 25 Upper Body Strength Exercises with Resistance Bands to do at Your Desk,” and “Workout at Work: 25 Lower Body Strength Exercises to do at Your Desk.” Other recent books include “Exercise Sucks! The Secret to Losing Weight Without Really Trying” and “Is Your Chair Killing You?” All of Kent’s books are available at www.amazon.com