Beginner’s Guide: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

If you’ve read the blog (and, … even if you haven’t), chances are you’ve heard of High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT. HIIT workouts seem to be taking over the fitness landscape and there’s plenty of reason for their popularity. HIIT training is fast, effective, and mildly addicting. Let’s explore what makes HIIT hot and how you can get in on the action!

What is HIIT, exactly?

High Intensity Interval Training are workouts can be done just about anywhere and at anytime. HIIT isn’t necessarily about the exercise, the equipment, or the workout location. The name gives away the secret to its success …the intensity MUST be high to receive the benefits. In other words, you have to be willing to go harder than you normally do and get a bit uncomfortable.

The good news is, HIIT doesn’t have to be an hour long workout. Most HIIT workouts will only ask you to work or be “uncomfortable” for 10-75 seconds before offering a brief recovery period. Which is totally doable! Most HIIT workouts can last less than 30 minutes and if done 3 times a week, they can produce amazing results.

Who should do HIIT?

HIIT is a perfect solution for any busy person as it’s been proven to not only torch calories, but also enhance your aerobic capacity without enduring long, boring workouts that most folks fear. As long as you’re willing to push your limits, HIIT will work for you!

Give it a try

29-Minute HIIT Workout

Want to get started? Try this 29-minute HIIT workout next time you head to the gym! You can perform the workout on a treadmill, bike, elliptical or with your favorite exercises (i.e. burpees, jumping jacks, etc.).

First, it’s important to have an exertion scale to monitor how hard you’re working. Sure, heart rate monitors can help but with how fast the intervals come, it’s better to monitor your breath and your ability to talk to quickly assess if you need to bump it up a notch. We’ll use four zones to keep it simple:

Preparation/Warm Up

It’s important to properly prepare the heart and lungs for HIIT workouts. Make sure you spend AT LEAST 5 minutes warming-up. For example, if you’re on the treadmill, start at 1% incline and a comfortable walking pace. Gradually, over the 5 minutes either increase the incline and speed up the walk or move into a light jog if you’re planning to run for your intervals.

Intervals

For each interval section, you will push yourself to breathless for 20 seconds and then completely recover for 10 seconds. You’ll repeat this 8 times in a row before rewarding yourself with a big break!

During the 20-second pushes, it’s important to get to it right away. For example, if you’re on the treadmill, be on the verge of uncomfortable before the buzzer sounds and quickly increase the pace or the incline (or both) to reach breathless. Then, when you recover, move to the treadmill rails (off the belt) and breathe. You may NOT get fully recovered as the intervals progress during the set, but that’s the point. Your body will respond to the increased discomfort.

Recovery

In between the Intervals Sets, you should recover as completely as you can during the first 3 minutes. Walk around, grab a drink of water, rehearse the next movement. The main point is to bring your heart rate down as possible before beginning the next cycle of intervals. Then, as you head towards the next round of intervals, gently start moving back towards being challenged to be ready for the next push.

Stretch

Make sure you take a few minutes to stretch your major muscle groups at the end of the workout. And, of course, be certain to take off a day in between HIIT workouts to give your body an opportunity to recover.

Your turn: What machine will you try HIIT on next?

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Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the founder of SFR, a consulting firm for aspiring fitness educators, manufacturers and managers, as well as the owner of Balletone® and GroupEx Pro®. Shannon is a 15 year fitness veteran, freelance writer, as well as an international presenter for Schwinn®, BOSU, and ACE. She is a member of the ACE Board of Directors and has helped author portions of the ACE and ACSM Group Fitness manuals. Shannon is the Director of Exercise Programming for the Anytime Fitness Franchise and is a certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach interested in helping fitness professionals navigate the fitness industry and find their place.

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