You don’t have to be a hard core athlete to reap the benefits of interval training.
What is HIIT?
Whether you call it HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), Tabata or just plain interval training, interval training simply means alternating periods of harder work with periods of recovery during your workout. The good news is, it’s scalable for all levels.
Is HIIT for me?
Regardless of your choice of exercise or comfort level with impact, you can (and probably should!) include interval training in your workouts. Interval training will boost your heart rate to anaerobic levels causing your heart and circulatory system to grow stronger. Your body will also become better at recovering from intense exercise.
Additionally, interval training will help you to lose weight even more than long cardio sessions. By bringing your heart rate to anaerobic levels, you will increase your post exercise oxygen consumption as your body recovers from your training session. This means that your metabolism is higher and your body is ready to use your meals to build muscle and assist in recovery, rather than storing your food as fat.
Here’s what you need to know to get started …
Whether you walk, run, cycle, or strength train, there is an approach to interval training that will work for your body. If you love your treadmill but don’t want to introduce running into your training program, the incline feature of most treadmills, such as the Horizon Fitness T101, will provide you with a low impact option that will build strength and increase your heart rate substantially.
Using incline rather than a faster pace, allows walkers and hikers create a higher demand, without increasing impact or requiring running. For those new to interval training, I recommend beginning with a simple format of 1 minute of work followed by 2 minutes of recovery. Wearing a heart rate monitor is the most effective way to gauge the intensity of your work periods and the 1 minute period of elevated effort, provides you with sufficient time to see the reaction of your heart rate.
A basic HIIT workout:
- Using a basic treadmill with an elevation feature, warm up by walking at a brisk pace for five minutes.
- Follow by increasing your incline to 6% or more until your heart rate climbs up to 85% of your maximum.
- Stay at that pace and incline for the remainder of the minute.
- Follow that work period with 2 minutes at a flat incline and brisk walking pace, allowing your heart rate to reduce to 75% of your maximum.
It is important that you reduce your effort sufficiently to allow this recovery. Repeat these periods of work and rest five times before completing a cool down walk for five minutes.
Want to mix it up?
If you’d like to alter the type of exercise, you can use the same approach to running, cycling, or using your elliptical, varying either your pace or the level of resistance (or incline on a treadmill) to create your periods of work. You can also alter both the work and recovery periods to make them longer or shorter.
In addition to the impact it has on your fitness and metabolism, interval training offers substantial psychological benefits as well. The constantly changing demand makes for an enjoyable and interesting workout that goes by quickly. Additionally, interval training workouts are time efficient, creating an effective workout in half an hour or less, meaning they fit well on tightly scheduled days.
How often should you do HIIT?
As you begin, interval training, one or two days per week will be sufficient to improve your fitness. Over time, add in additional interval workouts while ensuring that you schedule at least 1 or 2 days each week for rest or active recovery.
When you’ve become comfortable with interval training, and are looking for more variety, check out interval training methods like Sprint 8. It’s a 20 minute a day, 3 day a week program that has proven to reduce body fat by 27% in just eight weeks.
About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.