Benefits High Intensity Interval Training


High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a super-efficient workout. Most people aren’t used to pushing into the anaerobic zone (this happens when you can’t breathe and you feel like your heart is trying to jump out of your chest). During HIIT, you work very hard in short intervals and then you recover.

You burn more calories during a HIIT workout, more muscle is preserved, and also HIIT stimulates production of your human growth hormone (HGH) by up to 450 percent during the 24 hours after you finish your workout. HGH is responsible for increased caloric burn and slows down the aging process. Calories burned from HIIT come from a higher metabolism, which lasts for hours after exercise.

Overall, HIIT produces many of the same health benefits as other forms of exercise such as reducing inflammation in your body, improving heart health, lower body fat, heart rate, and blood pressure, in a shorter amount of time. Intense exertion kicks your body’s repair cycle into hyperdrive and as a consequence you burn more fat and calories in the 24 hours after a HIIT workout than you do after a steady-pace workout such as running.

A study recently published on shows that HIIT is more effective than weight training or cardio for improving metabolic health, is superior for fighting age related decline, and may yield anti-aging benefits down to the cellular level. HIIT was found to be even more effective at improving mitochondria biogenesis.

All cells in our bodies contain mitochondria. They produce energy that powers everything your cells do. HIIT boosted the ability of the mitochondria within cells to generate energy by 69 percent in older volunteers, and by 49 percent in the younger group. Mitochondrial activity declines with age, which may aggravate fatigue and reduce the size and ability of muscles to burn excess blood sugar – a risk factor for diabetes. But this decline was halted and even reversed with HIIT after three months of interval training in older participants in the study, where everything converged towards what they saw in young people. Interval trainers also saw surges in the amount of oxygen they could inhale and consume, another indicator of higher metabolism.

New research also found evidence of the HIIT effect on the aging process by measuring the structures at the end of chromosomes, known as telomeres. Telomeres are a kind of “junk DNA”, which does not encode protein sequences and whose function is not well known.  Each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. When they get too short, the cell can no longer divide; it becomes inactive or “senescent” or it dies. This shortening process is associated with aging, cancer, and a higher risk of death.

We know that our telomeres start to shrink as we age, but we also know that older people with longer telomeres don’t experience vascular aging as rapidly as people with shorter ones. This means their veins are generally in better shape and they are less at risk for conditions like heart disease and stroke. Researchers found that the people in the aerobic and HIIT groups experienced more telomerase activity. Telomerase is an enzyme that adds nucleotides (the molecules that form DNA) to telomeres. This process causes chromosomes to become longer. In other words, HIIT acts “like a drug” protecting your telomeres, producing the anti-aging effect.

Gabriela Brochu, Biologist, Ph.D.

Gabriela Brochu is a College Professor by day and Group Fitness Instructor at Saint Mary’s Fitness Center by night. She teaches HIIT a couple of times per week. Her classes can be found under the class schedule on our website: 


Saint Mary’s Fitness Center Celebrates American Heart Month!


February is American Heart Month and we’ve got a bunch of ways to help bring awareness to the issue of heart disease here at the Fitness Center!

Heart disease is the #1 killer in America, accounting for roughly 23% of all deaths in the US each year. There are a lot of things you can do to take control of your health and heart to prevent having issues in the future.

Luckily, by coming to the gym regularly, eating a well-rounded nutritious diet, and keeping to a healthy weight, you are already doing the right thing for your heart!

Here are some of the ways that you can participate with us this month and do a little extra to take care of yourself in the years ahead!

  • Friday, February 1st: National Wear Red Day – Wear red to the fitness center– we will be!
  • Join the Cardio Challenge! Anytime you participate in any of our cardio based classes (aqua fitness, cycle, cardio dance/Zumba, or a Cardio Quickie) and log it on our trackers (on the 3rd Floor by group ex and 1st Floor in the hallway to the pool!) The top 3 cardio hours logged will win some great prizes!
  • Try a Cardio Quickie Class – New in February! Tuesday, Thursday & Friday from noon-12:30 pm we have some brand new fun Cardio Quickie classes for you! Tuesday is Plyometrics with Christina, Thursday is Boxing Drills with Zach, and Friday is Mixed Bag Cardio Quickie with Rori! These classes begin February 1st and will run all month long! Let us know how you like them and maybe we’ll add them to the schedule!
  • Join us for the Hands Only CPR clinic on Wednesday, February 13th from 9-10 am in our lobby. This is free and open to the public. Learn the basics of CPR and be prepared to save a life if needed!
  • Sweat with your Sweetie Week! February 10-16th, members may bring their non-member sweeties to any Group Exercise classes (reformer Pilates & master swim excluded) for FREE! Be sure to check them in as a guest at the front desk on the way in!
  • HIIT it with Hanna begins on Friday, February 15th! Morning people looking for a quick pre-weekend morning workout on Friday mornings are welcome to join us in the group exercise studio from 6:30-7:15am. A combo of HIIT & Plyo drills, this class is not for the faint of heart and is designed to be an intense way to end your work-week!

Whatever you do, we hope you’ll use American Heart Month as a reminder to take care of your ticker, and to take preventative measures now, so you can live a long, active, and healthy life!


Age Gracefully ~ Include Balance Training in your Weekly Routine

balance-training-exerciseBalance is an essential part of performance in daily life as well as in your workout routine. We would like to take a minute to highlight two men (one member and one employee) who continuously choose to include balance and stability during their training as they age.  By incorporating specific balance exercises into their exercise routines, they will help to maintain their core and accessory muscle strength, which will also help to keep them agile and flexible in unstable situations that pose a risk for fall and injury.

If you are feeling off balance, start small with practicing balancing on one foot for a short amount of time and build from there.  Another option is to spice up your current exercise routine by performing your regular exercises, but on an unstable surface like: a foam pad, Bosu ball or medicine ball.  After lots of practice and guidance, you could even attempt a head stand!  Take a look at some of Jim and Steve’s favorite balance moves.


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“A slight stumble can turn into a catastrophic event if we can’t maintain our balance.” —Steve G. (employee and living proof that balance helps to keep you going).

A Mile in My Boots ~Brockway Summit to Martis Peak Fire Lookout

This review is from July 1, 2017

TRAIL NAME: Brockway Summit to Martis Peak Fire Lookout


DISTANCE: Approx. 10.4 miles (according to Afoot and Afield, Tahoe-Reno)

TRAIL CONDITION: Very Good—4 miles up right before we turned off of the Tahoe Rim Trail there was a large snow bank that blocked the trail—travel further along the Tahoe Rim Trail would be difficult because of the snow. We easily hiked across several patches of snow, a minor creek crossing and a large mud patch, but were happy for the water for the dogs. TRAIL TIP: Bring some powdered Gatorade and you can make snow cones with the snow!

DOG FRIENDLY: Yes, but with HWY 267 at the start of the hike (and the end of the hike), we kept the dogs on leash until we were very sure they would run onto the highway. There were multiple patches of snow and a creek for the dogs to drink from about ½ way up, but we brought extra water for the dogs just in case. Also, at the end, we walked up the road to the fire lookout and kept the dogs close as a car passed.

PROS: The view from the Martis Peak Fire lookout is the best I have ever seen! It’s a 360 degree view of Tahoe, Northstar, Truckee and Prosser. There are many other sites along the trail that have views of Lake Tahoe as well.  For a shorter hike try Picnic Rock, also with great views (Other hikers told us that it was about 3 mile round trip with a well-marked sign showing the turn-off on the left). While this hike has more vertical climb than others, it seemed easier because it’s cooler. As we went further up the trail there was shade and snow to keep the temperature down.

CONS: This is slightly further, has more vertical climb and footing is a little more uneven. Must pack in water for dogs! Crossing HWY 267 can be a bit intimidating, but we were able to cross the highway both times and get back out of the road with our car without a problem. Parking could also be a problem if you don’t start early.

COMMENTS: This is the best view of Tahoe, Donner, Truckee, Prosser, etc. around. It is possible to drive up almost all the way to the lookout—and worth doing if you are unable to hike up. I prefer the bragging rights of hiking up, but don’t miss this view!

TRAIL DESCRIPTION:  To get to the trailhead, head up HWY 267 from Truckee towards Tahoe City.  Just pass Brockway Summit you will see a large parking pull-out on the right. Across the Highway is a dirt road—just hike up the road and you will see the trailhead. This is part of the Tahoe Rim Trail system so look for the triangular Tahoe Rim Trail signs on trees as you hike if you need reassurance that you are on the right trail. We simply hiked up about 4 miles until we saw a side trail leading to a dirt road (the Tahoe Rim Trail continued up a few hundred feet further and would have let us to the same dirt road, but there was lots of snow and it was easier to take the side trail). After turning left on the dirt road, we walked a short distance until the paved road and turned right. Follow the paved road—there will be a gate that may or may not be open—just keep going up! You can’t miss the Lookout! If you look inside the Lookout above the windows you can see drawings with the peaks identified of the actual mountains below. Then just re-trace your steps back to your car when you are done enjoying the view. There is a picnic table up there if you want to enjoy lunch while you are there and a bathroom (not very clean and no toilet paper when we were there)

For more detailed information and trail description, please refer to Afoot and Afield, Tahoe-Reno.

Recommended Reference Guide:  Afoot and Afield, Tahoe-Reno, Second edition by Mike White, 2016 Wilderness Press.

A Mile in my Boots ~ Tahoe City to Truckee River Canyon Viewpoint

It is not too late!  With the weather cooling off, this is a perfect time of year to get out and enjoy some trails before the snow hits.  Check out this trail review.

TRAIL NAME: Tahoe City to Truckee River Canyon Viewpoint

DISTANCE: Approx. 11.4 miles (according to Afoot and Afield, Tahoe-Reno)

TRAIL CONDITION: Very Good—No major water crossings—minimal snow. The footing for this hike is very common along the Tahoe Rim trail—good footing, but a little more uneven ground with scattered rocks. We all commented that we had tripped a little on this trail because we had been hiking on smoother trails. There were a few sections that were rocky, but only a few—nothing major.

DOG FRIENDLY: Yes, but there is only water within the first mile of the trail so water must be packed in for your dogs. As usual, bikes may be using this trail (there are some well-known mountain bike trails in this area). The parking is on a road so you will need a leash to get dogs across road onto the trail—and also on the first part of the trail to guarantee dogs don’t end up down on the road.

PROS: This trail has some great views of Lake Tahoe early on—you wouldn’t have to hike out the whole way to get a great view! Later in the trail, the views of Truckee River Canyon, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are spectacular. A great hike to start challenging yourself for further distances.

CONS: This hike requires some thought and preparation (food and water)—slightly further distance, more vertical climb and footing is a little more uneven. Must pack in water for dogs! But you are on the Tahoe Rim Trail—what’s not to like?

COMMENTS: Our hike was an out and back with spectacular views along the way. This hike could be easily shortened by turning around sooner at one of the many lookouts.  We started at 8:30 and saw a few hikers on the way out, but passed many hikers on the way back—so start early to avoid crowds. This trail runs hot—another reason to start early!

TRAIL DESCRIPTION:  To get to the trailhead, we took California 89 South from I-80 towards Squaw Valley and Tahoe City. Just as you enter Tahoe City, turn Left onto Fairview. Drive past the fire station and park at the Community Center. For more detailed information and trail description, please refer to Afoot and Afield, Tahoe-Reno.


Recommended Reference Guide:  Afoot and Afield, Tahoe-Reno, Second edition by Mike White, 2016 Wilderness Press.

More Posture Tips from Brian!

The following 3 exercises will help to prevent faulty posture. The exercises should be done a minimum of twice per week, ideally three times.  2-3 sets of 10 repetitions for each exercise.

Standing Wall Snow Angels – Stand with your back against a wall and feet approximately 6 – 8 inches away from wall. Slide your arms up by your sides with your palms facing forward. Be sure to keep your hand and elbow against wall at all times. Stop when your elbow comes off the wall. Move slowly.

Standing 1 Arm Row – With tubing fixed to a immovable bar, hold tubing with both hands and pull 1 arm with elbow close to side. Try to rotate your spine as you pull. Head turns with spine.

Yoga Press Ups – Laying on your stomach on the ground with your hands shoulder width apart at shoulder level. Press your chest up without hips coming off the ground. If this is too difficult, press chest up with elbows on the ground. Look straight ahead.

Brought to you by Brian Thurston, Certified Personal Trainer

3 Exercises to Help with Posture

Posture is something that we could all work on, especially those who are seated for several hours each day. Here are 3 exercises that you can do pretty much anywhere!



Wall Angels

Pressing length of spine into the wall, bring elbows up to shoulder level. Keep elbows at a right angle and press forearms into the wall behind you. Make sure to keep lower back pressed tightly into the wall. Hold for 10 – 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.



External Shoulder Rotations On wall (2 ways)

  1. Pressing back into wall, start with elbows by rib cage forming a right angle, rotate shoulders to bring forearms towards the wall.
  2. Pressing back into wall, start with elbows at shoulder level forming a right angle. Rotate shoulders to bring forearms and hand to the wall.

Posture exercises provided by Samira Dilles, Certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. Stay tuned for more health & wellness tips!