HI(I)T It Hard!

At the start of another new year, I want to bring some fresh elements into my own training.

First of all, I (still) do not have an unlimited amount of time to train, therefore I am looking for the best return on the time I CAN invest into working out. Having learnt from my sports injuries to date, I would like to focus on quality and variety, rather than quantity of exercising. Most of my injuries were caused by overtraining and not preparing my body properly for the challenges ahead. HIIT seems to be the answer for some of the things I am looking to achieve this year.

So, if you are also looking for some variety and new challenges like myself, or simply just want to get back into shape fast after the festive binge, but without spending hours to achieve this, please read on.

So what is HIIT?

I think this is best explained by a fitness website called The Greatist, which I frequently visit for tips and inspiration, in their article called The Complete Guide to Interval Training:

“HIIT is a popular form of exercise that combines two of the most effective fat-burning methods:

  • The first is high-intensity training, which pushes the body to maximum effort to achieve muscle fatigue and maximum oxygen use in a quick burst. The harder muscles work, the more oxygen they require. This is measured relative to one’s VO2 max, which is the highest amount of oxygen your body consumes during exercise. Working your body close to its VO2 max triggers the afterburn effect, where the body continues to consume oxygen (and burn calories) up to 48 hours after the workout (it takes approximately five calories to consume one liter of oxygen).

(…)

  • The second method is interval training, which alternates periods of intense effort with periods of moderate-to-low intensity effort. Interval training boosts metabolism significantly longer than a steady workout of equal or even greater length (for example, a 20 minute workout of alternating high/low-intensity periods burns more calories than a 20 minute workout of stead intensity). Interval training also builds lean muscle tissue faster than steady state training.”

Basically, what they are saying is that by applying the principles of HIIT, you continue to burn calories even after your workout has finished and you can potentially get more out of your time spent on training for less amount of time provided that you are working at the right intensity level. Who else loves the sound of this?

SO how do you HI(I)T it?

For example, you can get a 24 minute killer workout routine by doing 12 exercises for 45 seconds at your maximum or close to maximum effort level with 15 seconds rest, for a total of 2 rounds. You may not even need any equipment, purely using body weight exercises can give you a great workout. Only your creativity is the limit!

The selection of exercises, the length for the rest periods and high intensity intervals will obviously depend on your goals, level of fitness and the time you have available for the session amongst other things.

You may find it helpful to use an interval timer like Gymboss which costs about £15, or simply use an interval application on your mobile phone. This will take away the distraction of having to keep an eye on the time but lets you focus on your workout instead.

By combining the above two principles, you will quickly see the benefits of adding some HIIT into your life, such as:

  • Maximized fat-burning potential;
  • Increased calorie burn during AND after your workout;
  • Improved muscle-building potential;
  • And the best news is that all of this can be achieved through significantly shorter workouts!

What is the science behind this?

The aforementioned article says that “HIIT taxes and maximizes both aerobic and anaerobic fitness, while cardio addresses aerobic only. Aerobic respiration requires oxygen to generate energy in the form of ATP, while anaerobic respiration does not. HIIT affects muscle tissue at the cellular level, actually changing mitochondrial activity in the muscles themselves. Studies indicate as little as 27 minutes of HIIT three times per week produces the same anaerobic and aerobic improvement as 60 minutes of steady state cardio five times per week.”

Sounds a bit Chinese? I thought so.  In a nutshell, HIIT challenges you in more ways than just doing steady state cardio such as running on the dreadmill.

Is HIIT for everybody?

It is not for everyone. It has proven to be a very effective way to improve fitness and get into shape within a relatively short time, but it is also very taxing on the body due to the intensity which you need to work at. Therefore HIIT is recommended for those who already have a reasonably good base level of fitness, and are not afraid to push themselves to the limit! It is therefore definitely not for the physically ill/fragile or for novices.

If this article has sparked some interest, why don’t you try a free HIIT workout or sign up for a programme on the Body Rock website?

So, who else is going to HIIT it today?

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