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The Battle Against Body Fat

Want to lose body fat fast? High Intensity Interval Training may be just the thing to jump start your workouts!

“I’ve run five half marathons in the past 2 years, I should be in great shape, but I’m not.”

I often hear this complaint (or one similar) from clients when they walk into my office. Most of us like accountability to keep us on track and a consistent running training plan often fits the bill. The problem? A majority of these clients are running through injuries, don’t feel strong, and aren’t losing the weight they had envisioned.

I, too, was this person. I started running in college and although I grew up playing tennis, I really wasn’t super competitive. However, one day a group of friends dared me to run 3 miles every other day for 20 days. I wasn’t in the best shape at that time, yet I had the mental toughness and perseverance to push through the challenge- I love a good dare! It sparked my running career and I haven’t stopped since!

So, naturally, I reverted to running as a method to quickly drop pounds after my pregnancies. Losing weight was easy after my first pregnancy, but the weight would not come off after my second. I had run short 5K and 10K races; never a half marathon. Maybe distance was the issue? I told myself it was time to enter a longer distance race to challenge my mind and body, so I chose the annual Disney Half Marathon. I was hooked! I ran one half marathon a year for the next 5 years.

All of that changed in December 2016, when I tore my ACL while skiing. I had ACL reconstruction in January 2017, and vowed that I would get myself in better shape. I know, what does that mean, exactly? I should be in great shape if I can run several half marathons, right?

Well, I have to admit- I was actually in terrible shape. I suffered from chronic shin splints, left hip pain, neck pain, and my body fat was nearly 30%! The American Council on Exercise recommends female body fat percentage at 25-31% for an average woman and 21-24% for a physically fit female. Needless to say, my body fat percentage was on the high end and running wasn’t improving that.

After completing the rehabilitation for my ACL surgery, I needed to change my exercise routine to focus on building muscle mass while staying pain-free. I did not want to run through pain to simply check a box. I wanted to get back into the best shape of my life! So, I decided to supplement my running with high intensity interval training (HIIT).

According to a recent study published in the April 2019 edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine*, interval training is defined as bursts of effort punctuated by recovery periods, or breaks. The two most popular forms of interval training are HIIT and sprint interval training (SIT). Specifically, HIIT requires “near maximal” efforts performed at a heart rate ≥ 80% of the HRmax or the equivalent as expressed as a function of the VO2 max.

My choice for HIIT was OrangeTheory Fitness. It provides 60 minutes of whole body, high-intensity training that focuses on strength, endurance, and power, all while trying to achieve 12 minutes of your workout at >84% of your heart rate max. Initially, I disliked the workouts. They were difficult and kicked my butt more than any other workout I had done. Though, I stuck it out and am pleased to report I’ve stayed committed over the past two years and the results are the best I’ve seen in all my years of working out!

Not only did I drop 2 minutes from my running pace, but I saw other changes happen to my body. Since adding HIIT workouts, I dropped 7 pounds of body fat and gained 4 pounds of skeletal muscle mass! The best part, though? I’m not in pain anymore! (And I can often run faster than people 15 years younger than me!)

You may be asking, “Why is decreasing percent body fat and increasing skeletal muscle mass (i.e., lean body mass) important?” According to, here’s a few reasons why:

Lean Body Mass:

  • Combats Obesity

  • Helps You Battle Disease

  • Contributes to Strong Bones

  • Can Protect Against (and potentially reverse) Insulin Resistance

When the British Journal of Sports Medicine published their article revealing that HIIT workouts were the best exercise for reducing body fat, I was not surprised. I have experienced this firsthand and encourage my clients to incorporate HIIT workouts into their routine, too. If you are looking to lose body fat and get yourself back on track, try some of the examples below.

HIIT Workouts:

The great thing about HIIT workouts is that there is no end to the variations you can try. Whether you want to incorporate weights, running, or do a routine that requires no equipment but yourself, there’s a workout for you.

  • 40 squat jumps

  • 20 push-ups

  • 30 jumping jacks

  • 10 tricep dips

  • 10 burpees

  • 30-second plank

Do not rest between each exercise, and repeat this circuit three times, with a 1-minute rest between circuits.

Here’s a HIIT circuit you can incorporate into any running routine. It will take approximately 12 minutes and can be done on a treadmill or outdoors:

  • 30-second sprint

  • 40-second brisk walk

Repeat this circuit 10 times in a row, with no rest. The point is to perform at 95% to 100% intensity during the sprints.

Remember: when done correctly, HIIT can boost your metabolic rate for up to 48 hours after your routine. HIIT is quick, convenient, and requires minimal to no equipment. So, if you want to get more out of your workout, and see less fat quickly, try to incorporate these HIIT routines into your regular exercise sessions.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren Sok PT, MPT

Lauren Sok, Founder of Functionize Health & Physical Therapy, brings 18 years of physical therapy practice and expertise in treating orthopedic and sports medicine related injuries. She incorporates a functional medicine approach in treating the whole person to find the root cause of a problem, rather than treating one body part at a time. Lauren holds a Master of Physical Therapy and Bachelor of Science in Health Science from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. She is a Certified Stott Pilates Instructor, a Clinical Instructor at the Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program, Emory University, and is trained in Redcord Neurac and Trigger Point Dry Needling. Lauren’s email is More information can be found at

*Study reveals best exercises for reducing body fat

Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, for MDLinx | April 18, 2019

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