Amp Up Your Workouts with HIIT

What Is HIIT and How Do I Do It?

High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT is being praised over Continuous Training (CT) because, essentially, you will burn more calories in less time. This is accomplished in two ways; the calories you burn during exercise (usually the cardio phase) and the calories that you will continue to burn AFTER your workout. The later is a result of weight or resistance training that focuses on muscle work. This phenomenon is known as the Continuous Burn where your metabolism stays elevated for up to 16 hours after your workout is finished. It is like burning calories for free long after you workout.

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You can add HIIT to just about any workout that you are currently doing at home or at the gym. It is a concept that is easy to apply (notice I didn't just say easy) and one that will get you great results, faster. That is, essentially, what we all want for our time spent working out. To begin using HIIT, add an interval of about 10-30 seconds (start with 10 seconds if you are a beginner) of intense, all-out training to your existing workout. If you are a runner, cyclist or swimmer this would translate into a 30-second sprint. If you use an elliptical, or other fitness machine, then push yourself as fast as you can for the full 30 seconds. This short interval should be as intense as you can possibly make it - give it everything you have. You will tire quickly and should not able to continue this intense pace for more than 30 seconds. Following this interval, is your Recovery Period. This lasts for around 4 minutes. This is just enough time for your body to get rid of the lactic acid build-up in your muscles and prepare for the next high intensity interval. As you progress using HIIT, you may also choose to design your intensity intervals with consideration to several factors including; duration, distance, speed and resistance so that you are pushing yourself at every workout. It should never become 'easy'.

Here is a sample HIIT circuit that you can adapt to suit your favourite workout;

  • Warm up with a slow pace.
  • After 2 minutes, increase your intensity to what your 'regular' pace would be. This would be the pace at which most people will spend 45 minutes and still end up burning fewer calories that you will in 24 minutes with HIIT.
  • At the 4 minute mark, begin your first high intensity interval: sprint or go full-out for 30 seconds. Make sure you are timing this interval because it will seem long since it is difficult.
  • After the interval, recover by coming down to a pace that is slightly slower than your regular pace. This recovery should last 4 minutes. At around the 3 minute mark, you may be able to get back up to your regular pace and prepare for your next interval.

In this sample workout, the high intensity intervals would occur every 4 minutes at the 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20 minute marks. The last recovery period should last 4 minutes and will serve as your cool-down. And you're done. You've cut your workout time in half and increased your calorie burn.

If that is not enough to convince you to try HIIT, consider the fact that you can vary your workouts and combat the boredom of performing the same Continuous Training workout day after day. Staying motivated, challenged and interested in your workouts is a huge part of making fitness an enjoyable part of the rest of your life.