The popularity of high intensity interval training, commonly referred to as HIIT, is on the rise, and there is good reason!
HIIT it is an exercise technique in which you give maximum effort for a short burst, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods. This technique can be utilized with all different modes of exercise, such as running, swimming, strength training, etc. The intense work periods range from 5 seconds to 8 minutes long, and the ratio between exercise and rest/recovery varies, but a very common ratio is 1:1 – so for example, you could do 2 minutes of high intensity running followed by 2 minutes of rest or active recovery walking. The whole workout lasts between 20 and 60 minutes. The intense exercise is performed at 80% to 95% of your maximum heart rate. This not only obviously increases your heart rate and your body’s need for oxygen during the workout, but also in the recovery period after exercise, which is known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). Due to the EPOC, your metabolic rate is higher for 24 to 36 hours after the workout; this is known as “afterburn”. In other words, because of the intensity of the exercise, it takes your body longer to return to its normal resting state, and thus you are burning calories during the workout and for a lot longer after that (often totaling anywhere between 500 – 1000 calories).
What it all boils down to is this. HIIT workouts burn more calories faster. Who doesn’t like that?!
Here are some benefits to HIIT workouts:
– You burn calories during AND after your workout (for up to 36 hours).
o You mean I can still burn calories while I relax?!
– It strengthens the most important muscle in your body – your heart.
o If your heart isn’t strong, it doesn’t matter if any of the other muscles are!
– It is a strength and cardiovascular workout all in one.
o Essentially buy one get one free!
– It is easily modifiable.
o Make it fit your goals, preferences and resources!
– It doesn’t require any equipment and can be done anywhere.
o No excuses!
– It is fast.
o Who has time to spend 2 hours working out every day?!
Ok by now hopefully you are convinced that HIIT workouts are AH-MAZING, but it isn’t a magic spell. You still have to put in the effort.
Here are some keys to making it successful:
– Get uncomfortable!
o In order for it to truly be a HIIT workout, there needs to be times in your workouts when you are begging to quit.
– Eat clean!
o While HIIT helps you in your health and fitness goals, if you aren’t combining the exercise with good nutrition, you won’t be successful.
– Be consistent!
o While any exercise is better than none at all, if you want to see real results, you need to be working out on a frequent, consistent basis. Shoot for 3-6 days per week (depending on your goals).
– Watch your form!
o Even though you are trying to go fast and hard, form comes before speed. It does no good if you aren’t working the muscles probably or worse yet, injured.
– Compete with yourself!
o A little competition makes you work harder, but it doesn’t help to compare yourself to others. So just try to “beat” yourself.
– Celebrate your victories!
o Be proud of yourself when you make strides, big or small. Reward yourself, whether it is just a “pat on the back” so to speak or some tangible treat. It will help spur you on to keep improving.
My final point (and probably most important) point is this…While I am partial to HIIT workouts for all of the reasons stated above; the best exercise is the one that you are going to do. So if HIIT doesn’t fit your personality or lifestyle, and you just can’t gear yourself up to do it. Find something that you do love (or at least find tolerable) because some sort of exercise is better than none at all!