At the moment, there’s a real buzz around HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine recently declared it one of the top two fitness trends for 2014.
Since I’m always up for something new, especially when it takes me another step closer to my 2014 fitness goal, I decided to HIIT it.
What is HIIT Training?
What’s the philosophy behind HIIT?
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and is designed to be hard work – you push your limits and get as close to your “threshold” as you can. Intervals mean you work hard, then you rest, then you work again and so on. This style of training can affect the way your body uses fuel, not just during exercise, but throughout your entire day.
- What are the benefits of HIIT?
There are many reasons why so many people are starting to train this way and why it’s so beneficial. But number one is its capacity to severely increase your metabolic rate and, with this, your ability to burn more fat as fuel, not only during exercise but after exercise.
The intense workout:rest nature of HIIT leads to a large oxygen demand during and after training. The subsequent oxygen usage post-training is commonly called EPOC, which stands for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, and simply means that the intense exercise you did earlier that day will have your body still working and burning fat long after your session has finished. This also results in an anabolic state within the body. This anabolic state is created by a high work to low rest ratio which results in high levels of lactate in the body.
This type of workout also promotes the production of testosterone and growth hormone, both vital pieces in the fat burning puzzle. As well as this crucial energy and hormonal system response, you’ll also be firing up your fast twitch muscle fibres, which will help in forming new muscle, and this will help you in burning body fat, even when you’re resting.
- Who does HIIT suit?
HIIT suits almost anyone, however, it really depends on the person and the exact training stimulus. What will change between participants is the intensity, but it is essentially all relative as long as you work to an intensity that suits you.
Using an exertion scale of 1-10 (1 being standing still and 10 being completely and utterly stuffed!), aim to get to a 7/10 during your work periods, then by the end of your rest you should have come back down to a 5-6/10. The more advanced can push to a higher number, with better fitness levels allowing for a quicker recovery.
With Fitness First’s HIIT classes, beginners can start with the basic class to get a feel for it – but remember, you must pay attention to your scale out of 10 the whole way through. If you feel it’s getting away on you, simply drop the effort a little and manage the intensity yourself.
- How many times a week can you do this type of training?
Again, this will depend on the person and their training objectives. However, for beginners it would work well doing one HIIT session per week in combination with some resistance training and play. Intermediate can easily move up to 2-3 HIIT sessions in combination with some resistance training and play (again, amount will depend on desired outcome), while advanced trainees can easily incorporate 3-4 HIIT sessions as a part of their overall and balanced program.
Interval training is always expressed as a work:rest ratio. A classic example is the good old “sprint a lamp post / walk a lamp post.” If the sprint took you 10 seconds and the walk took you 30 seconds, this would be a 1:3 ratio. This ratio is vital to the outcome of your HIIT, and you must monitor the rest element relative to your work in order to gain the most benefit.
What’s HIIT Really Like?
Over the last month, I’ve been working up a sweat with a few HIIT sessions at Fitness First. Before the first one, I was actually really nervous – Would I be able to hack the pace? Would I drop on the spot from exhaustion? Would I actually have fun doing it? After all, anything with the name HIIT doesn’t sound pretty! But, not only did I live to tell the tale, I dead set loved it.
HIIT works for me for a few reasons:
- It is efficient. My biggest obstacle to exercise is time. I’ve got two small kids and my own business so when I work out it needs to be short, sharp and straight to the point. Every minute needs to count. With HIIT I can smash it in under 30 minutes and feel smug that by revving up my metabolic rate, I’ll still burn through fat and calories for the rest of the day!
- It doesn’t require equipment. Since HIIT focuses on getting your heart rate up (and keeping it there) you generally don’t need weights or fancy equipment to get started. You just need a timer and to work through a series of exercises that use your body weight. And the best bit? It can be done anywhere – at home, in a hotel room, in a park or at the gym.
- You set the pace. Sure, it’s full-on and you’ll be sweating like crazy, but HIIT is all relative. It’s about paying attention to your own exertion rate, which is always going to be different to someone else’s and why this type of exercise suits everyone from a couch potato to gym junkie.
- It’s fun! I loved the intensity of HIIT and that it is a serious physical challenge. There’s nothing like the feeling and sense of accomplishment of pushing your body to see how far it can take you.
Have you tried HIIT?