If you read any fitness magazines or websites than you may have seen the phrase “high intensity interval training”, sometimes abbreviated as “HIIT”.
This is a method of aerobic conditioning, alternating short periods of high-intensity work with low-intensity recoveries.
An example would be sprinting up a hill as fast as you, then walking back down and catching your breath, before running up again. You would alternate this for as many intervals as you can.
The science behind HIIT is still in its infancy but, thus far, we know that 15 minutes of HIIT provides more benefits to the body than 2 hours of “steady state cardio”. Also, one high-intensity burst of power during regular cardio is not as effective as alternating high-intensity efforts with periods of recovery for the entire workout. Finally, studies have shown that HIIT increases the release of human growth hormone within the body by about 500% for two hours after the workout!
Remember, it’s these benefits to our hormone levels that make it possible to reduce body fat while improving lean muscle mass, strength, and bone density.
My favorite thing about HIIT is the efficiency. I always tell my clients, they can take a Spinning class, for an hour, twice a week, and end up famished, ultimately overeating later in the day, or perform one HIIT session for less than 30 minutes counting a warm up and cool down.
In addition, high intensity interval training can be modified based upon the individual’s capability and equipment available.
For example, in the summer I prefer hill sprints or sprinting on a grass field. In the winter, I move indoors and perform intervals on a rowing machine or stairmaster.
A safe and effective way to start a HIIT routine is to warm up for a few minutes on a rowing machine or stationary bike, and then alternate 30 seconds as fast as you can with 30 second recoveries. Continue this until you feel like you could only complete one or two more intervals. Finally, cool down for another few minutes and do some stretching or foam rolling.
Even though this protocol is referred to as high intensity, it is entirely dependent upon the effort you put forth. For this to be effective, you want to move at a speed that you could not sustain comfortably for much more than 30 seconds…but the key word is “comfortably”. You don’t have to push beyond your comfort zone to experience the amazing results of HIIT. All you have to do is be willing to work very hard for some short intervals once or twice a week.
It’s actually important you don’t push too hard as it can cause adrenal fatigue or burnout. For this reason, I recommend clients limit HIIT sessions to once or twice a week in the beginning and always stop when they feel like they could only complete one or two more intervals at their “high-intensity” pace.
So, give it a try, play with the variables, and reap the amazing benefits of high intensity interval training!