I recently went on my first run in a while. It wasn’t great – it turns out my body doesn’t quite move like it used to, and wanting to fly at my usual speed only resulted in nausea from a build up of lactic acid. That got me thinking: if i’m ever to get fit again, what’s the quickest way to get there? Do I really need to commit to a 6-8 week program, let alone wait 2 months before I see results? I don’t have that kind of time and neither do you.
The science behind getting fit is (sort of ) simple: effectively, it’s all about improving your VO2 Max – a person’s ability to use oxygen efficiently during exercise. The greater our VO2 Max, the less likely we are to “run out of breath”. Every time you push yourself so that you’re out of breath, your lungs are forced to adapt and become better equiped to deal with the physical exertion.
If you want to go one further, you can also work on your anaerobic capacity – the ability to maintain a high intensity for prolonged periods of time. When you work in the anaerobic zone ( a good way to think about it is the energy system required for a 400m sprint), your body produces lactic acid (caused by a lack of oxygen in the muscles to break down glucose and glycogen) – that nauseating feeling you get after exercise is your body trying to deal with the lactate.
Again, if you want to improve you anaerobic capacity and work at a high intensity for long periods of time, you can improve by pushing your lactic threshold – every time you push yourself, your body will adapt and become better at dissipating lactic acid.
So with that in mind, we spoke to celebrity personal trainer, Jono Castano, co-owner of Acero Training Series and the man responsible for Lincoln Lewis’ incredible MH transformation, to find out the best exercises to get fit fast (and it doesn’t just have to be boring cardio).
The Best Exercises To Get Fit Fast
In recent years HIIT (High-intensity interval training) has become the go-to class when it comes to getting in shape and even Castano is a fan.
“Short bursts of intense exercises with short breaks – it’s not only good for burning calories, it’s also great to increase stamina – using aerobic and anaerobic systems to help you boost your fitness fast. I’m a fan of HITT as it’s short, efficient and effective,” he tells Men’s Health.
2. PUMPING WEIGHTS
Shifting tin is best for building muscle, there’s no denying that. But Castano says you can alter the workout to also improve your aerobic capacity.
“The trick is to shorten those rest periods to less than 30 seconds and focus on back to back exercises that work the same muscle group AKA tri sets and supersets,” explains Castano.
“If you don’t need the rest then don’t take it. You should be leaving that session sweaty and definitely out of breath – look for over 130 BPM.”
If you’re struggling to lift weights continuously, incorporate bodyweight exercises like push-ups.
If you’ve ever taken the stairwell, you’ll notice how much you’re huffin’ and puffin’ once you get to the top. Now, try running up and down for prolonged periods. This is the perfect exercise to boost your fitness level, says Castano.
“To break it down, the higher the heart rate the more oxygen we need to take in, leaving us breathless,” he says.
“If we do a few sets up and down while pushing past your limit, we will see quick results. The more you do it the better you’ll get.”
Coming back from injury, getting back into exercise can be tough, especially if you’re worried about aggravating any damage you’ve done. Castano recommends jumping on a bike to take some of the stress off your body.
“There are so many cycle classes out there now and the best part about it is that is non impact so it’s gentle on the joints and muscles. Don’t underestimate how effective a bike can be. Riding for long periods of times and working intervals Is a perfect way to boost those fitness levels.”
If jogging is a little too slow for you, give sprinting a go. The best bit? Your heart rate is elevated even in between high-intensity bursts.
“It can be done outdoors or on a treadmill – my go-to is 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off done at your max and repeat that 5 times. The benefits of sprinting is that it’s a complete workout. Using short bursts and short recovery times is going to elevate the heart rate helping boost those fitness levels,” Castano adds.