Y’all…I have been getting frustrated with my workouts lately. I work out regularly, but I feel like nothing ever comes of it, so I’ve been wanting to take my workouts to the next level. I don’t want to pay for an expensive membership to a gym or a boot camp, and with traveling all the time I don’t always know what I’m going to have at my disposal. It’s true that just being active is really great for you, but to see changes in your body, you are going to have to do something at least semi-challenging. If it was easy, everyone would look like Giselle, right?
HIIT, or high intensity interval training, is nothing new, but it has been gaining popularity recently. Especially as we tend to seem to have less time for exercising. If you don’t know what HIIT is, it is mixing intervals of high intensity activity (if 1 is sitting on your couch while you read this and 10 is the hardest you’ve ever worked in your life, think like 8 or 9) with low intensity recovery periods (say a 3 or 4). Look up HIIT on the internet and you’ll find a wide variety of options. You can pretty much do it with any cardiovascular activity, and the beauty of it is that it can be specifically tailored to your fitness level. I personally get really bored doing the same workouts all the time, so HIIT is appealing to me just because I can mix it up so that I’m never doing the same thing twice.
So, what is so great about HIIT?
- Highly effective calorie burner: According to research, it is very effective at changing your body because it burns more calories than a typical 30 minute workout. Why? Well, when you are pounding away at the pavement, or pedaling along on that bike, or working away on that elliptical machine at a steady pace, eventually your body adjusts to that activity, so your heart and lungs don’t have to work as hard to keep going. The beauty of our bodies is that they are really good at being as efficient as possible. Not that running 10 miles isn’t a big calorie burner, because it is, but basically, your body adjusts to it (which you want it to…trust me…if you haven’t run 10 miles, you definitely don’t want to spend the whole time out of breath and feeling like you might pass out), and it becomes the new norm. (This probably also explains why I gain weight every time I train for a half marathon.) When you do HIIT, you are constantly changing the level of exertion your body is challenged with, and it never knows what to expect, so it has to constantly work to ramp up its efforts to sustain you while you are sprinting up that hill and then to cool down once you get to the top and start walking…and just about the time it has gotten back to normal, guess what…yep, you take of sprinting again.
- Continues to burn even more calories: Some research has even shown that your body continues to burn calories at a higher rate for up to 24 hours after performing a HIIT workout, and that women who performed HIIT regularly (3 x a week) for 12 weeks showed an increase in body fat and total weight lost than women who did a typical cardiovascular workout (like a 5-7 out of 10) for 12 weeks.
- Maximal results for minimal time: Evidence shows that even a HIIT workout as short as 15 minutes is enough to ramp up the calorie burning effect. I typically aim for 30-45 minutes, but it is nice to know that on a day when I’m really crunched for time, if I can squeeze in 15 minutes, I can at least do a little good.
Get Started: I can’t say that I always get 3 HIIT workouts in a week, although that’s always the goal, but I do shoot for at least 2. I typically do my HIIT exercise as some form of running, but you can do whatever floats your boat. Just find a way to change the intensity!
- Treadmill: If I’m stuck on a treadmill (which I hate), I’ll alternate a minute of brisk walking with a minute of running at a fairly high speed (pick a speed that at the end of a minute, you are having to work to keep from falling off the treadmill, but not so fast that you actually will fall off).
- Outside: If I’m outside (which I love), the possibilities are endless. If I’m in a hilly area, I’ll sprint as hard as I can to the top of a hill and walk until I get to the next one. If I’m in a fairly flat area, I’ll alternate sprinting and walking every block, or tree to tree, mailbox to mailbox…you get the idea. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m going to do until I get out and start going!
- Warm Up: I always warm up before starting HIIT. Usually I’ll jog a mile or two and then do my HIIT workout.
- Cool Down: Don’t forget to cool down after that last high intensity interval! At the end of a HIIT exercise, you should be struggling to go further or faster. My last sprint looks nothing like my first…In fact, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t look like much of a sprint at all. The crazy thing is, I’ve been more fatigued after jogging a mile and then doing HIIT for 2 miles than I have after running 10!
- Enjoy the Results: And after 2 weeks, I have a few skirts that are noticeably not as tight in the hip area as they were 2 weeks ago. I can’t tell you about actual weight because I haven’t been home in a couple weeks to weigh myself, although, I don’t rely solely on the scale because I know people who have drastically changed their body shape without changing much on the scale. The more important thing is I can tell a difference in my endurance level and strength when I do other exercises or long runs…which is really what matters most.
Start at whatever level works for you. If jogging is hard, alternate jogging and walking, add in hills or up your speed to make it harder. If you’re on a machine at the gym, increase the resistance. Just know that at the end of your high intensity interval, you should be really struggling to breathe and or keep going at that current pace. If you are still reading your magazine while you are doing it, it probably isn’t hard enough. Always make sure you warm up and cool down before and after any workout and always listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, never keep going. If you are new to exercise, you should always consult your physician or a licensed professional first.
I found this great article that highlights the benefits of HIIT…and has a sample 8 week program I just might try out!
What are some of your favorite challenging exercise routines? I’m always looking for new stuff…I’m sure I’ll get bored soon enough!