You will not WANT to do this workout, but you HAVE to do it.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is described as “an enhanced form of interval training, an exercise strategy alternating periods of short intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. HIIT is a form of cardiovascular exercise. Usual HIIT sessions may vary from 4–30 minutes. These short, intense workouts provide improved athletic capacity and condition, improved glucose metabolism, and improved fat burning.” (source)
“It’s got to be high intensity, whatever the workout is, if you’re going to torch calories — not just burn them,” says Bret Emery, a nutritional consultant and fitness coach.
My definition? It’s killer hard and amazingly effective. Period.
I don’t mean scary hard, I just mean good hard. It’s hard in the way intense workouts should be but very rarely are.
I used to avoid workouts like this for a few reasons. The biggest was that I just didn’t feel I was very good at them. I would rather hang out on the elliptical for an hour with my book than make myself do sprints. I knew this wasn’t necessarily giving me the results I wanted, but I didn’t have the motivation to do anything about it.
When I had my daughter, I was forced to condense my workouts into 30 minute blocks. I didn’t have time to drive to the gym, spend an hour there and drive back. I wanted to keep my beloved Pilates, Yoga and Barre workouts, but I knew I also needed bursts of cardio and strength training I could do at home. Finally, I needed to find motivation to work harder than I usually made myself work. Enter: high intensity interval training.
I started by finding a few workouts online and following them step by step. I didn’t have too much time to think about what I was doing because I was too busy checking the list of exercises and my timer. By the time 20 minutes had passed I was sweaty and tired and didn’t know what had just happened. I just knew it was working.
Basically, HIIT combines cardio bursts with strength training moves. There is a “recovery period” after each cardio burst, but this doesn’t mean you get to rest. It usually involves some kind of toning move that works your body while allowing your heart rate to decrease. Then you go right back to another cardio burst.
This type of training has been shown again and again to give you the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to burning calories and fat. The coolest thing is that you actually burn more the rest of the day after a HIIT workout then you do with a regular workout. So it keeps working for you all day long! I’ve also found that the work I do during my HIIT workouts makes me stronger in other fitness areas, as well. For example, the jump squats and lunge skips I do with HIIT gives me more power in uphill hiking or running.
The key is to use the cardio burst time to really get your heart rate up. You are doing something that works you and your body and is challenging for YOU. This is different for everyone! In this video I use jump squats for one of the cardio bursts. This is challenging for me, but regular squats might be plenty for you. You find something that raises your heart rate and do it for a set amount of time (30 seconds to two minutes). Then you have an active recovery period where you continue to work but more in a strength training way instead of cardio (again, 30 seconds to two minutes depending on the workout).
HIIT workouts can be anywhere from 4-30 minutes. They are generally meant for people who don’t have active injuries and aren’t brand new to exercise, because they are fairly intense. Don’t let this scare you off, though! Take the concept and apply it to your unique situation. If you have only been exercising a while but feel ready to “take it up a notch”, try walking for two minutes at a normal pace and then walking fast for one minute. Or walk on the treadmill and do no include for two minutes and then moderate incline for one minute. Listen to your body and always check with your doctor before starting something new.
Most of all, have fun with it! Use this as a way to see how strong you really are and to get those endorphins pumping. Rest whenever you need to and just do what you can. You’ll find you can do a little more each time. I hope you love it! (well, you’ll hate it a little, too, but hopefully love more than hate). xoxo!