Village Talk

Short Circuit

Three revved-up workouts that are anything but routine

By Shauna Farnell February 1, 2015 Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2015 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

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Three revved-up workouts that are anything but routine. 

When it comes to losing weight, strengthening muscles, and improving overall fitness, recent studies suggest that minutes- or even seconds-long intervals of all-out exercise trump Sisyphean huffing and puffing on a stationary bike or treadmill for hours on end. In the valley, three popular high-intensity interval training classes offer different ways to achieve the same goal: a leaner, stronger, fitter you, in less time than you might expect.  


When you walk into Crosstraining Fitness Vail for the hourlong Workout of the Day (WOD), be prepared to work. After a 15-minute warm-up of plank holds, sit-ups, Supermans, squats, and jumping rope, the WOD begins. Although the routine varies, the typical Crossfit WOD circuit cycles through three or four stations, completed in 20 to 30 minutes.

The first might be cardio (running, rowing, or jumping). The second, an exercise using your own body weight (e.g., push-ups, pull-ups, burpees). Then there’s weight lifting (clean-and-jerk lifts, power squats, dead lifts), which sets Crossfit apart from other types of high-intensity interval training. Finally, and most intensely, props (e.g., pulling a heavy sled across the floor or carrying an enormous concrete stone on your shoulders) that make you feel—and ultimately act—like you have superhero powers.

“Our mantra is ‘Fear less, live more,’” says Crossfit Vail co-owner Melissa Matthews. “The idea is to put things in front of you that you thought you could never do, so you can go out and do things—hiking, rock climbing, doing a big jump on your skis.”


Based on a training regimen for Olympic speed skaters developed by Japanese exercise physiologist Izumi Tabata, Debbie Plath’s class at the Westin is geared toward ramping up cardiovascular capacity via intense, 20-second bursts of exercise interspersed with 10 seconds of rest.

The class is centered on a routine of four exercises (e.g., step climbs, burpees, push-ups, squat curls). Plath cues a fast-tempo techno track and blows her whistle, and participants bang out as many repetitions as they can for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then begin the next exercise. Once everybody has cycled through all four exercises twice, the first four-minute “Tabata” (circuit) is over. After 30 seconds of rest, the next Tabata begins. And the cycle repeats, until the eighth Tabata is complete. To put things into perspective: at most gyms, Tabata workouts end after just one full circuit.

“Everyone is actually really energized at the end of class,” says Plath, who explains that the goal of Tabata is increasing aerobic and anaerobic fitness, which is ideal for sports like skiing, which (especially if powder is involved) requires both. “You’re getting your cardio bursts, your arms, your legs—a lot out of a small amount of time. Tabata is not a tra-la-la-type exercise. It’s go! Go! Go! Go!”


The name might evoke an image of an iron-pumping Tasmanian Devil wearing a wife beater, but Manic Training is more cerebral than you’d think.

Also based around high-intensity intervals of everything from burpees to side planks, the Manic routine involves a 10-minute warm-up, a 10-minute exercise demonstration, and 40 minutes of high-intensity movement. As with Crossfit and Tabata, no two classes are ever the same. Weekdays, intervals might be 30 seconds of box jumps followed by 10 seconds of rest, one minute of holding a side plank followed by 30 seconds of rest. Saturday classes involve nonstop intervals of perhaps a dozen  exercises. Weight is added for extra difficulty, and some exercises—such as pushing or pulling a weighted sled—are done with a partner.

“There’s a healthy team aspect in a lot of our workouts,” says Manic Training Vail Valley instructor John Mark Seelig. “You’re fighting hard together. Everyone is suffering.” There’s also a “risk-reward” component to Manic—if you can’t do 10 burpees in a minute, for example, you’ll have to do 40 extra. “The idea is to tell yourself, ‘I can push further,’” Seelig adds, “to go beyond where you would have typically given up.”

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