High-Intensity Interval Training 101: The Benefits & My Tips & Tricks
By: Kelly Ohana
If you know, you know: there’s NOTHING like that post high-intensity interval training feeling. I don’t know about you, but I always feel like superwoman when I finish a HIIT workout.
High-intensity interval training is a workout alternating between short intense bursts of activity & fixed periods of less intense activity or complete rest, for example: sprinting for 1 minute at maximum intensity, then walking & jogging for 2 minutes & repeating the interval 5x OR doing jump squats or alternating jump lunges for 20 seconds at maximum intensity, resting for 10 seconds & repeating the interval 6 to 8 times).
Not only is HIIT a great cardio sweat but it’s also an amazing way to release endorphins, challenge yourself both mentally & physically. It’s super versatile because you can apply the concept of interval training to so many varieties of workouts from sprinting to boxing, spinning & weight or resistance training. It also has tons of benefits from a fitness perspective.
In fact, studies show you can achieve more progress in 15 minutes of interval training (done 3x/week) than someone who jogs on a treadmill for 1 hour & you burn more calories than traditional exercise or the same amount in a shorter amount of time!
Other studies also show that just 2 weeks of HIIT improves aerobic capacity as much as 6-8 weeks of endurance training, reduces resting heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar & insulin resistance in healthy & diabetic individuals.
We burn more calories during a HIITT workout & the effect of the intense exertion kicks the body’s repair cycle into hyperdrive so you burn more fat & calories in the 24 hours post-HIIT than after steady cardiovascular exercise (for example: running on a treadmill or doing the elliptical for 1 hour straight at the same incline & speed). This means that HIIT boosts your basal metabolic rate, a.k.a. the rate at which you burn calories when your body is in a resting state.
HIIT builds cardiovascular endurance as it pushes you into the anaerobic zone (the feeling where you can’t breathe & you feel like your heart will pop out of your chest) & helps reduce visceral fat (disease promoting fat surrounding our organs). The average North American has a percentage of visceral fat well over what is considered healthy due to the amount of processed, packaged & refined foods, sugars, additives & artificial ingredients consumed nowadays.
You can basically do HIIT anywhere (at home, at the gym, in a workout class or even outdoors), so it’s a highly effective workout that you can do even with no equipment & just your body weight, for example, alternating between plyometric exercises like, high knees, burpees, fast feet, jump squats, alternating lunges, skaters, mountain climbers, plank jacks etc. & periods of rest.
Tabata HIIT is my favourite type of interval training because you can incorporate it into riding a bike, running, bodyweight exercises, strength & resistance training, spinning & plyometrics. The only thing that doesn’t change is the formula: you push at full-out effort for 20-30 seconds & try for as many reps as you can without compromising form or range of motion & rest for 10 & then repeat the sequence 6-8 times.
HIIT also boosts fat loss, not muscle loss – with weight loss, it’s hard to avoid losing muscle mass along with fat; when done exclusively, steady state cardio can actually lead to muscle loss, but weight training & HITT preserve muscle & ensure most of the weight lost comes from fat stores!
HIIT revs the metabolism as it stimulates the production of human growth hormone by up to 450% during the 24h after; HGH increases caloric burn, slows aging & shifts the body’s metabolism toward using fat for energy VS. carbs
The intense periods of work & the consistent desire to challenge ourselves & push harder the next time around give us the drive & fuel to constantly improve & monitor results. This way, we become more in tune with our body & we recognize its physical & mental strength.
And like I said, there’s nothing like that post-HIIT feeling - the release of endorphins is literally like a natural high!
One thing that is very important to be mindful about is EASING into high-intensity interval training, especially if it’s a new type of workout for you. There’s no denying that it’s intense & it places a strain on the heart & muscles, especially if you jump right into it without working your way up. In the beginning, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing the moves with modifications, at your own pace & reducing the intensity by removing plyometrics or jumps. HIIT should obviously challenge you & be intense, but pushing too hard too abruptly can lead to injury & shock your body too much.
If you are new to HIIT, it also shouldn’t be the only type of workout you are doing in your weekly routine. Start with once or twice a week & then you can work your up to to three & maximum five times a week. It’s important that you change up your workout routine & do a variety of exercise that targets different goals & muscle groups so that you are constantly challenged & mentally & physically stimulated & to prevent your body from going into overdrive, keep inflammation at bay & ensure that you are giving your muscles the necessary stretch & rest they need when you feel that’s the case.
Last but not least, remember to NEVER compare your journey to anyone else’s. Your journey is just that: your own. Everyone had their “first time” & everyone started somewhere. Nobody starts off where they are right now & nobody stops right there either. We are all constantly on a journey towards becoming healthier, better, wiser, stronger & more educated versions of ourselves & it’s important to always be mindful of that, both in fitness & all aspects of life.