No matter how long you’ve been exercising or how consistent you’ve been, there comes a time when you just seem to stop making progress. As frustrating and demotivating as this can be, sometimes all you need is a little change in routine to get things going again. HIIT might be the missing link to spark your metabolism, increase endurance and improve recovery. HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training is a type of training that takes you up to or near your maximum effort for short bursts of work interspersed with lower intensity active rest or recovery intervals.
HIIT is different from other types of interval or circuit training in that your target exertion is 80% of maximum heart rate, which is about 7 or greater on an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) scale. Other methods of interval training may not aim for that high of an intensity.
HIIT can be done with outdoor cardio activities such as cycling or running. You can also do a HIIT workout on any cardio machine. In my HIIT class, you’ll mostly be doing bodyweight exercises, such as squats(yes!), push-ups (sorry!), jumping jacks (oldie, but goodie!) and burpees (it’s a love/hate relationship, I know!) Some light weight training equipment like bands or dumbbells might make an appearance, but heavy lifting is not part of the program.
RPE or Rate of Perceived Exertion is a scale used to measure how hard you feel you are working during exercise. It’s a 0-10 scale ranging from no exertion to maximum effort. Factors include breath rate, heart rate, increased sweating and muscular fatigue.
0 / No exertion; resting heart rate and breath rhythm
1 / Very light; little increase in heart rate or breathing rhythm; able to talk as usual
2-3 / Light; slight increase in heart rate and breath rhythm; can carry on a conversation comfortably
4-5 / Moderate; can have a conversation with some interruptions for breath
6-7 / High; vigorous; more breathing less talking
8-9 / Very hard; difficult to have a conversation
10 / Maximum effort; no talking
HIIT aims to get you to a 7 or higher intensity for a short burst, followed by a recovery interval of around 3-4 for multiple rounds totaling about 12-20 minutes.
BENEFITS OF HIIT
Improved Cardiorespiratory Health and Metabolism
Aerobic training refers to a low to moderate intensity activity that uses oxygen from the air you’re breathing during the activity. Anaerobic exercises, like HIIT, demand more oxygen than what is being consumed. This means your body has to tap into stored energy during the workout. For this reason, HIIT is considered metabolic training. It burns calories at a higher rate and may continue to burn at a higher rate for hours after the workout. This shift from aerobic metabolism to anaerobic metabolism for producing energy and generating force for the exercise, helps to improve cardiorespiratory function during exercise and at rest.
Fat for Fuel
Because you’re using stored energy during a HIIT workout, the body may tap into fat for fuel. It can continue to use these reserves in the post exercise recovery period, as well. It’s worth noting that body composition is not improved by exercise alone. Along with strength training and cardio conditioning, nutrition is an important piece of the puzzle.
The purpose of the lower intensity recovery intervals in a HIIT workout is to remove the metabolic waste (lactic acid and hydrogen ions) that accumulates during the high intensity bursts. This conditions your body to tolerate higher intensity activities and to recover more quickly.
A perceived lack of time is the number one reason for not exercising regularly. A HIIT workout is generally done in 40 minutes or less, including a warm-up and cool down. The intervals allow you to do more work and experience the health benefits in a short amount of time.
Because HIIT is high intensity, anyone with a known cardiorespiratory condition should consult a health care provider before jumping in. Movement is fast-paced and can (but doesn’t have to) include impact. Exercises like jumping jacks or squat jumps can certainly be modified, but if you have joint concerns or conditions, talk with your doctor first. HIIT can be appropriate for beginner exercisers, but even better when combined with personal training to ensure you have proper form.
The great thing about HIIT is that it’s not choreographed. You don’t need to be moving at a certain number of beats per minute, and you don’t need to be in sync with me or your neighbor. Because all bodies are unique, one person’s high intensity can look like the next person’s low. You know your body better than anyone. Listen to your body and your breath, and take a break if you need to. Don’t wait for me to tell you.
NEW in 2023! Join me for HIIT class on Mondays at 11:20, starting January 2nd. This is a 40 minute class, and will include a warm-up and cool down with stretching. Class is limited to 5 participants. I’d love to be a part of your fitness journey this new year. If you’re interested, HIIT me up