HIIT. The term that can either have you running for the hills or grabbing your workout kit and jumping for joy! This style of training can be very polarising due to its nature. HIIT has been around for many years with a quick Google search showing it dates back as far as 1912 where it was used as a training method by some Olympic runners. However over more recent years has grown rapidly in popularity due to its convenience, adaptability and effect on calorie burning to name but a few.
I wanted to write todays blog because HIIT is absolutely everywhere these days and I think it is important for people to understand both the pros and cons of this type of training before deciding if it’s for you.
First let’s break down what HIIT actually is….
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and although HIIT comes in many shapes and sizes these days there are some fundamental principles surrounding it. HIIT training consists of short bursts of maximal effort exercise followed by a short recovery period or we alternate between high and low intensity exercises. This causes our heart rate to fluctuate throughout the workout and due to the high intensity nature of HIIT our metabolic rate remains high after we finish, as it takes longer for our bodies to recover. Generally, the effort level we are aiming to within our HIIT workout should be around 80-95% heart rate max. Workouts will vary in length depending on structure and aim, however typically this can be anything from 5-30minutes.
So, let’s start with the sexy stuff! What makes HIIT so great?! Practically HIIT is brilliant because you can pretty much do it anywhere with minimal to no kit! In terms of designing your session you can include a variety of different exercises and equipment to suit your needs and include things you enjoy. For example, you can complete HIIT on a bike, running or with a set of dumbbells to name a few. Furthermore, this style of training is great for people with busy schedules or those who want just a short, sharp burst of activity.
Then of course there is the physiological effects on the body. Naturally, HIIT boosts similar health benefits to all exercise, however in addition, due to its intensity we burn more calories in a shorter time frame. As mentioned previously we also continue to have an increased metabolic rate hours after a HIIT session which continues our calorie burn post workout longer than other activities. This is the stuff that people get excited about because everyone is on a calorie burning mission these days!
However, we must note that there is always another side to the coin. The main thing that worries me about HIIT training is when people jump into it too soon! Remember this is maximal effort training so if you are mainly a sedentary person looking to start up exercise, this wouldn’t be the best place to start. Of course, that isn’t to say you will never get there, but its best to ease the body into movement with easier workouts and build your fitness before tackling a maximum intensity workout. Secondly, one that grinds my gears a lot in the gym when teaching…. HIIT should be maximal effort stuff. So, if you try a HIIT class and barely break a sweat then you aren’t working at your max. You should be out of breath and barely able to talk, not finish an interval and be able to have a chin wag with the mate next to you! (personal rant over)
With all of the above in mind it’s also important to note that the recovery time for the body is longer. You may find you feel more fatigued than with other training sessions. This is perfectly normal and of course the more you train this way your body will adapt, however make sure you are listening to your body and don’t over do it! Allow rest days between HIIT sessions to avoid burn out. Generally, the intensity and high impact exercises you see in HIIT workouts can place a lot of stress on muscles and joints etc which can lead to a greater risk of injury. This can be exacerbated if you are performing movements with incorrect technique or you have previous injuries. Finally, it goes without saying that if you have any current medical conditions it is always best to consult your GP or medical expert before starting any new exercise!
So, some key points to finish:
- If you absolutely hate HIIT DON’T do it! This isn’t a compulsory thing you have to do. If its calorie burning you are after there are other ways to exercise which may suit you better
- If you are just beginning to exercise more start with some lighter activity and don’t jump straight the deep end with HIIT.
- Recovery is key so make sure if you are HIIT mad like I am that you don’t over do it! You’ll know when you smash a session compared to when your body is telling you to just CHILL OUT!
- Those of you regularly taking HIIT classes always keep in mind the effort level expected of you!
If you have any questions my comments, email or Instagram DM’s are always open!
Lots of Love