HIIT is quick and effective, when done right
There’s a saying that if we still look cute at the end of our workout, we didn’t train hard enough.
And now there’s a theory that if we can talk to our friend next to us while doing HIIT, we’re not going all out.
That’s the main point behind HIIT – high intensity interval training – and the research findings and subsequent stories you might have seen behind the benefits touted from those seven-minute, and even one-minute, exercises.
They can be effective as long as the effort is there.
Amy Hall, the group fitness director and personal trainer at Elite Sports Club-North Shore, said there are benefits for almost everyone who includes HIIT into their already active lifestyle or baseline workout routine.
That’s why HIIT is being incorporated more and more into exercise classes in gyms and viewed on YouTube. The American College of Sports Medicine rated high intensity interval training as the third biggest fitness trend in 2016, behind wearable technology, like fitness trackers, and body weight training. It wasn’t on the Top 10 list four years ago.
HIIT is an efficient way to push the body and the heart rate in a very short amount of time.
But HIIT has to be done in a very specific way: All out.
Think of running from the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park kind of effort.
“You would have to push yourself to the extreme for that one minute,” Hall said. “You’re pushing yourself to like, ‘I can barely do any more.’ ”
One of the more well-known examples of HIIT is Tabata. It’s real simple: 20 seconds of all-out work in an exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest, for eight rounds. It sounds like nothing, right? – 4 minutes – until you do it.
An example would be to do burpees and speed skaters for 20 seconds, alternating between the two, with 10-second rests in between. If you go as fast as possible and do the full range of motion (not half jumps), you’ll be tired and your heart rate will be high.
Other intervals might be for 30 seconds or 45 seconds followed by a 15-second rest.
If you start hearing someone talk about 60- or 90-second HIIT intervals, or if you try to do them and see the effort fall off, it’s time to question if that is HIIT training. It’s still good work, of course – but probably not HIIT.
“I don’t know if people can sustain that type of intensity for 90 seconds – that’s really long,” Hall said. “I’m not sure if you can get to your max and hold that for 90 seconds. You want to feel like you can barely do any more, not that you’re plodding along.”
Or pacing yourself.
“You’re going as hard as you possibly can,” Hall said.
More examples: box jumps, a squat press with a weight, pushups, plyometric jump lunges, knee tucks, even sprinting. When Hall is on her 30-minute run, she sprints for 10 seconds at the end of each minute.
“Over the course of time, my run pace has sped up,” Hall said.
She uses an app on her phone called “Interval Timer,” and she hears the beep over her music.
In HIIT, said Hall, we put in our absolute maximum effort to where our heart is working at 80 to 95 per cent of its maximum rate. That is really high, if you’ve never felt it.
If my Fitbit Surge is even close to accurate (take that with a grain of salt, there are all kinds of reports out there screaming about the imperfections of fitness gadgets) my resting heart rate is about 53. That’s on the couch with no anxiety about deadlines and to-do lists.
It got cranked up to 168 when I did the Fight For Air Climb to the top of the U.S. Bank Tower. When I’m jogging at a comfortable – but not running from Northwoods bears – pace, it is in the 120s.
So when I’m doing an interval, led by a trainer at my gym, I check my Fitbit and want to see something at least in the 150s. I try to push myself to almost an embarrassing level of near collapse. But I should probably push myself even more.
Then you rest and bring it back down to the 50-55 per cent heart rate range.
It is beneficial because the body is confused. When we go out for a walk, a light jog, or when we do the same thing day in and day out, our bodies get used to it. HIIT pushes our body out of its comfort zones, even the exercise-kind.
“HIIT is more of an up down, up down, up down – as opposed to the steady state of cardio,” said Hall, who teaches 10-12 exercise classes a week, some of which include interval training. “When you’re doing a steady state cardio like that, your body adapts to it really quickly. It’s not going to give you results, like it did at first.
“In any kind of workout, or training, you need to mix it up and get variety. That is how you will see constant improvement. You keep your body guessing because your body is really smart. You really can’t fool it.”
You can do HIIT on your own. There are books out there with suggestions, and there are tons of examples and videos online. But in my opinion, nothing beats a good trainer, coach or instructor who is engaged and willing to push you through a HIIT – because for most of us, there’s always that little voice in our head that says, “This is hard, slow down, stop.” You have to ignore it.
“Everybody gets that – even the elite athletes,” Hall said. “Your brain is going to tell you to stop before your body really needs to. I guess that’s why so many people hire a personal trainer or join a group exercise class because you have someone telling you to keep going.”
One thing about these short workouts is to keep them in perspective. Read the whole story. Be skeptical about any sales pitches for short little workouts. And HIIT works if you have some sort of fitness base, said Hall, because you’re at risk of getting hurt if you go all out right away when you haven’t been active.
“The target audience is people who are crunched for time,” Hall said. “Working mums – but people who needed to do at least something. But these can be a little deceiving to someone looking for the quick fix.”
They’re not meant to replace a day’s worth of light activity or strength training or training for a bigger event like a long distance run or triathlon. For that, we still have to prepare and exercise.
But everyone, Hall said, can benefit from this type of training that’s added in to our activity.
Think for example about being on vacation. Maybe you’re walking a lot on it and that’s enough activity for the time. Adding a few rounds of HIIT each day will help us stay fit, Hall said.
And even when we’re training for a run or a race, HIIT will help us get faster.
“I do this all the time on my own. I’m a busy working mum with two kids,” Hall said. “I had great plans the other day to run the hills by my house. One of my kids called and needed to be picked up from school.
“I didn’t get my workout in, so I just did a couple of rounds of Tabata, well-thought out exercises that incorporated a lot of muscle groups, like a burpee with a push-up. I pushed myself to the extreme in three 4-minute rounds. And it was a tough workout.
“It was basically a 15-minute workout.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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