I’ve been preaching the HIIT gospel for quite awhile. HIIT – or high intensity interval training – is an exercise strategy in which you alternate short bursts of intense exertion with short periods of recovery. In other words, you go as hard as you can for a short time, and then at an easy pace, alternating intense bursts with recovery bursts.
Unfortunately, I think the way I’ve described it in the past has intimidated a lot of people. So today I’m giving the blog lectern over to my colleague, RealCare Team Leader and certified personal trainer, Lori Grisham. She’s going to explain her take on HIIT. I think it’s worth a second look. Take it away Lori …
Have you ever googled, “What is HIIT?” and scrolled through the pictures of super athletes sprinting or doing push ups?
Can you picture yourself as a beginner, viewing, “Get ripped in as little as 6 weeks” and thinking that HIIT is only for those who are already in the Ultra Fit & Under 40 Club?
I’m over 45 and not living in a gym, so even though I love high-intensity exercise, I have to admit hearing the word HIIT can be a bit intimidating.
And in fact, I just saw a university study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise in which the researchers took a look at 2 HIIT workouts (Tabata and a less intense interval workout) compared with steady-state cardio and found that the HIIT workouts didn’t improve exercise performance any better than steady-state cardio for those just starting to exercise.
BUT, HIIT can be super effective. One 1994 study at Laval University in Quebec, Canada found HIIT was nine times more effective for losing fat than steady-state cardio.
All this has forced me to take a step back and rethink HIIT for those new to exercise, especially for people who are extremely overweight, over 50, or who have physical limitations.
And I’ve realized the best approach: Add a little HIIT into fun activities.
Don’t let the name scare you. Beyond all the complicated descriptions and step-by-step plans to having ripped abs to die for, it’s actually a very SIMPLE and easy to understand process that anyone — yes, anyone – can implement no matter what their current level of fitness.
The HIIT (for lack of a better name) method is actually a very flexible plan that can be tailored to meet you wherever you are on your path to greater health and fat loss.
Here’s how (trumpet sounds):
Pick an activity that you can do in the shape you are today. If that’s walking, running, swimming, burpees, biking, whatever. The activity is completely up you!
- Warm up by walking, biking, swimming, or whatever you’re doing at a pace that’s comfortable for you for 5 minutes.
- After warming up, increase your speed, going as fast as YOU can for 30 seconds. If you can’t make it 30 seconds that’s ok, listen to your body and stop when you need to.
The goal is to go fast enough to get your heart thump, thump, thumping, and feel your breathing increase!
- Once you’ve reached this point, go back to your comfortable pace until your breathing slows down and you feel recovered.
- Repeat this cycle a few times during each activity session if you can. If not, do as many cycles as you’re able to.
Once you get stronger, you will be able to do a little more, walk a little faster, go a bit longer, and maybe do an extra cycle or two.
Baby steps (no pun intended!)… you will learn to push yourself a little more as you go.
No matter where you are on your road to being fit and happy, have fun, good luck and happy trails!
Wow. That was really an eye-opening post. Are you going to try some HIIT now? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, Lori!
1. Tremblay A, Simoneau JA, Bouchard C. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism. 1994;43(7):814-818. PMID: 8028502.