HIIT Part 2 Dr. Sears PACE Program

Is your mind beginning to let you believe that you can actually be more fit and healthier by doing less exercise instead of more?

Before we begin:

Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program!


The long, slow endurance exercises that we discussed in article one of this High Intensity Interval Training Series simply leads to too much stress on the body and actually can cause damage to the heart, decrease the lung capacity and even contribute to the development of cancer. It causes “shrinkage:” Smaller muscles, smaller heart and smaller lungs. What’s worse, it wipes out your heart’s and lung’s reserve capacity.

Dr. Al Sears has a better idea. He calls his program Progressively Accelerating Cardiopulmonary Exertion or PACE for short. It’s his form of high intensity interval training geared to suit your level of fitness.

Here’s the basic concept:

  • Start with your level of fitness (or not so fit)
  • Then progressively increase the exertion and duration of each interval

You can choose from a variety of activities to provide exertion for your heart.

  • Treadmill
  • Elliptical machine
  • Bicycle
  • Jump rope
  • Trampoline
  • Alternate sprinting and walking

As you engage in one of these exercises you go all out as hard as you can for a short interval and then slow down for a longer interval.

Keep your exercise interval short, 30 seconds is enough. Then concentrate on recovery. As you slow down focus on calming your mind. Picture your heart rate slowing down. Each time you exhale, see your heart rate slowing down.

When your heart rate recovers, do another intense interval.


10-Minute Sample Program

Interval – 30 seconds
Rest – 2 minutes

Interval – 40 seconds
Rest – 2 minutes

Interval – 40 seconds
Rest – rest 2 minutes

Interval – 30 seconds
Rest – 2 minutes

Interval – 30 seconds
Rest – 2 minutes

Repeat this cycle of intense exercise/rest every couple of days, gradually increasing the intensity in each session. (If you’re on a stationary bike, for example, increase the resistance a little each day so it’s gradually harder to pedal.) Now you are incorporating “progressivity” into your workout.

Dr. Sears explains progressivity as making incremental increases in the intensity of your exercise, which will continue to change your body through time. By progressively but safely placing more stress on your muscles and other systems you trigger an adaptation response that increases muscle size and cardiovascular fitness.

In addition your heart and lungs increase in reserve capacity and so are better able to deal with stressful situations. If you run into that “Saber tooth tiger” your body gears up to fight or flee. Your heart has the ability to pump more blood. Your lungs can move more air to increase oxygenation. In real modern life that translates to more ability to lift objects, go upstairs or run in an emergency situation.

So instead of spending lots of time in an exercise program, put a lot of effort into a shorter time period. Your heart and lungs will thank you. So will your joints because they will be less likely to suffer from overuse degeneration. That means you will feel better and be able to continue your exercise regimen for a long time.

The cardiovascular benefits of the PACE program may not be obvious to you because you cannot peer into your heart and lungs. But other benefits can be quite obvious. And they are the ones that most people hope for the most in their exercise programs. We’ll talk about them next time.

Dr. Sears produced some specific PACE work out programs for you. Find out more about them at Dr. Sears PACE Program.