Time to HIIT it

There never seem to be enough hours in the day. With the studio and three holiday cottages to look after, I’m always busy so when it comes to my own workouts, I want to make the most of my time. That’s why I love HIIT.

What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. This form of training alternates periods of high and low intensity work, providing an intense workout in a shorter period of time than traditional endurance training.

It can be applied to any form of exercise that increases the heart rate, whether running, cycling, skipping or star jumps and burpees.

There are a number of recognised HIIT formulae such as Tabata, which alternates 20 seconds of intense effort with 10 seconds of recovery, but intervals can be any length to suit the participant. It ca also take the form of fartlek which takes its name from the Swedish word for speedplay and is particularly popular with runners. The length of the intervals is not fixed but depends on how the participant is feeling at the time. For example, you may vary the intensity of your session by running up a hill or by sprinting to a landmark. Circuit training, where the participant performs different cardio exercises at a number of stations also provides an interval workout.

What are the benefits of HIIT?

Interval training can dramatically increase aerobic capacity and stamina. The high demands placed on the heart on lungs force them to become fitter. Interval training also boosts anaerobic fitness. In other words, the body becomes more tolerant to lactic acid which builds up in the muscles during exercise and causes a burning sensation.

Numerous studies have shown that interval training not only burns more calories than lower intensity exercise but also improves the body’s ability to burn fat. Interval training can also boost the metabolic rate for up to 18 hours. This afterburn effect, known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), occurs as the body repairs itself and is fuelled predominantly by fat.

Is HIIT suitable for everyone?

While high intensity training requires a good base level of fitness, lower intensity interval training can be a useful tool for beginners. If, for example, you are starting a running programme, you may not be able to sustain a constant jogging pace. By interspersing intervals of running with walking, your body will adapt and you will soon find you can run for longer periods.

Interval training can be adapted to any activity, any ability. Cycling and running for example, lends themselves to sprints and hill climbs. A cardio circuit will also achieve an interval training effect.

HIIT guidelines

Proper HIIT sessions place large demands on the body so always ensure you warm up thoroughly in order to avoid injuries.

Although you should be working at a high intensity, remember that you will be performing several intervals. Ensure your pace is challenging but not so tough you collapse after the first couple of rounds.

Increase the difficulty of your training as you progress. You can do this in several ways: increase the number of intervals, increase the length of intervals, decrease the rest period.

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