Every Thursday, Svveat Stories tackles your most pressing fitness questions—this week, certified fitness instructor Hannah Kovacs demystifies HIIT, one of the hottest new trends in fitness.
Everyone keeps talking about HIIT this and HIIT that. Is it just another meaningless fitness buzzword or is it actually something that’s worth incorporating into my life?
— Buzzworded Out
I hear you, Buzzworded Out.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has emerged like a titan on today’s fitness scene. In an age when lines seem to blur between work and home life, and where disposable time competes with a world of distractions, people are seeking workouts built on efficiency—and HIIT fits the bill.
HIIT doesn’t require a significant time investment to achieve results, but it does require maximum effort. The concept behind this workout style is simple: combinations of exercises that elevate your heart rate to a maximum, paired with lower impact exercises that allow your heart rate to fall. Typically, HIIT workouts are structured in intervals, allowing us to sustain the high-low dichotomy over a defined period of time.
Here’s an example of an interval:
- Burpees for 20 seconds (high)
- Hip lifts for 20 seconds (low)
- Burpees for 30 seconds (high)
- Plank for 30 seconds (low)
- Burpees for 45 seconds (high)
- Squat hold for 45 seconds (low)
Using both muscle conditioning and cardio intensive exercises, HIIT can be a full body workout that will leave you dripping and your heart pumping.
Why is HIIT so popular?
When done properly, HIIT can be a major time saver while also driving maximum results.
Research has shown that HIIT improves both our aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels to the same extent as straight cardio—in half the amount of time.
HIIT has also been hailed as an extremely effective tool in weight loss regimens. By design, the objective is to push our bodies towards an oxygen intake threshold (think blowing up a balloon). In other words, we’re shedding major calories to supply our bodies with enough oxygen for the duration of each high-intensity interval. But it doesn’t stop there. This triggers a reaction that extends calorie burn long after the workout has finished (think releasing your pinch on a blown up balloon). Meaning, the body requires extra energy expenditure to adequately replenish oxygen supply post-workout (think investment dividends).
I’ve personally observed another major benefit of HIIT: it never seems to get boring. I’ve been doing HIIT for five years now and I’m constantly discovering new ways to challenge myself and others. I love incorporating movements from my soccer and basketball days (shuffling on the spot for one minute straight sure gets the heart rate up), as well as yoga exercises that promote flexibility and stretching. Don’t be afraid to innovate and get creative!
Why are you so passionate about HIIT?
It was actually my Dad who first introduced me to HIIT. He sent me a video link to Insanity’s ever-so-handsome Shaun T. jumping around yelling, “You can do it!”
I said I’d give it a try, and together we jumped aboard the HIIT train. Let me tell you, having a HIIT buddy can make that initial jump far less intimidating.
Many people admit to being intimidated by HIIT, so they opt to stay away. I’ve made it my mission to change this perception, as I’ve witnessed many people go through a complete transformation, from not being able to do one proper burpee to doing 20 in a row with perfect form.
People often overlook the positive impact this type of exercise can have on our day-to-day lives. Things like lugging groceries up the stairs, opening heavy doors or sprinting to catch a bus will seem nearly effortless as you build up your endurance and get comfortable pushing your body (safely) to its maximum capacity.
How do I get started with HIIT?
One of my favourite free resources, Nike+ Training Club, is a great place to get started. Offering a range programs for all levels, you’ll get a sense of how diverse and challenging these workouts can really be. And if you’re in the Toronto area, come check out my HIIT with Hannah class every Friday at 6pm.
If you have any questions about HIIT or about workout programs in general, don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com.
Have a fitness question you’d like us to answer? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask us in the comments below.