How High-Intensity Interval Training Will Transform Your Workout Ritual
Let’s be honest: it is too easy to fall victim to the hustle and bustle of our everyday routines, constantly feeling like there isn’t enough time in the day, and often forgetting to prioritize ourselves. If you ever feel like you don’t have enough time to squeeze in a workout, or you are just looking to get your workout over with faster (I can relate), high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a quick, powerful workout that you can finish faster than it takes to watch an episode of your favorite show.
- High-intensity interval training is a workout that includes shorter, more intense working intervals followed by periods of recovery.
- The benefits of HIIT go far beyond burning calories; these workouts are extremely beneficial to the heart, muscles, and mind.
- HIIT comes in many shapes and forms, and the workouts can be catered to the individual and the equipment available, making it an extremely flexible style of exercise.
What is HIIT?
High-intensity interval training is defined as a form of exercise in which repeated, shorter bursts of hard work are alternated with milder recovery periods. These physically demanding workouts can range anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes on average, and they are extremely flexible in their structure: meaning that you can fit them in any time, and almost anywhere!
A common misconception is that you need to exercise for extended periods of time for the workout to “count,” but that could not be further from the truth. In a short period of time, HIIT provides the body with benefits that are unmatched: including building muscle, boosting your metabolism, and lowering your resting heart rate.
Scientifically, when your body is going all out during your working intervals, it relies on the anaerobic pathways to produce the energy needed to fuel you. Basically, this just means that those intense intervals provide your body with immediate bursts of energy, but from a limited supply. The result? You can only sustain that maximum effort for a short period of time, emphasizing the need for those recovery periods right after!
The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) highlights that high-intensity interval training can place a massive amount of stress on the body. In turn, these workouts should be incorporated into your workout ritual 2 to 3 times a week with (ideally!) 48 hours of rest in between each session so your body has time to replenish its energy and restore its muscle tissue. That being said, a little R&R is necessary: try incorporating other types of workouts in between, such as strength training, biking, or low-intensity workouts such as yoga, pilates, or just going on a walk. Your body will thank you!
Benefits of HIIT
The benefits of high-intensity interval training go far beyond burning calories. These workouts provide your body with tremendous benefits that improve your heart, muscles, and mind.
HIIT works hard to keep your heart happy! Incorporating the intense intervals into your workout ritual regularly (i.e. about 3 times a week for 20 minutes) increases the flexibility and elasticity of your veins and arteries. Your heart becomes better and stronger when it comes to circulating blood around the body, and in turn, your risk of developing heart diseases decreases drastically. Additionally, your resting heart rate and blood pressure will decrease over time.
Also: let’s talk EPOC! Although it sounds like it should be a character from Star Wars, EPOC actually stands for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. This is just your body’s natural process and ability to increase your oxygen consumption after your workout. Essentially, as your body continues to consume more oxygen, you burn more calories. The more intense your workout is, the greater your EPOC, and the more calories you continue to burn for hours after you exercise (and you can continue to burn those extra calories for up to 72 hours!)
Additionally, as a result of HIIT, your muscle fibers absorb and store more glycogen. This means the fibers will hold onto more water molecules, thus increasing the size of your muscles.
Exercise, in general, can truly be transformative for mental health as well, boosting your serotonin levels and improving your appetite and sleep schedule. However, HIIT has been scientifically proven to elevate levels of a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a protein that helps encourage the growth of new brain cells-- especially in comparison to steady-state exercise.
What’s with all the hype?
A workout that is quick, efficient, can be done anywhere, and burns high amounts of calories during (and after) your workout? I think this one speaks for itself. The hype around HIIT is real: these workouts are generating some serious buzz in the fitness industry, and rightfully so!
The CDC highlights that only 1 in 4 adults in the US meet the recommended physical activity guidelines, which is (on average) 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Because of the short duration of high-intensity interval training, the opportunity to perform these workouts anytime and anywhere, and the ability to complete them with no equipment, they can be incorporated into anyone’s ritual and are a fantastic, sustainable option in the long run.
HIIT is certainly not a one-size-fits-all style of workout: it can be catered to anyone’s levels, ability, and schedule. One of the coolest parts is the versatility! You can incorporate weights and machines (if you have the opportunity), sprints (if you like to run), or do it completely bodyweight (if you just want to go with the flow!)
How to structure your HIIT workouts
As if I haven’t mentioned it enough, HIIT workouts are incredibly flexible! It can be extremely overwhelming to structure and create your own workouts, so I’ve compiled a list of a variety of ways to get started. Here are a few examples of different styles of high-intensity interval training workouts.
- Full Body Cardio Burn (no equipment) by Sarahs Day
This is a 25 minute, completely bodyweight HIIT workout that you can do anywhere-- all you need is yourself! Sarah Tilse is a holistic health guru that has two e-books with 8-week workout guides. She is a great resource for any workout: from HIIT to pilates and everything in between!
- 12 Minute Tabata HIIT Workout (no equipment) by Growingannanas
Tabata is a variety of HIIT where you do as many reps as you can in 20 seconds, followed by only 10 seconds of recovery for 8 rounds per exercise. This workout is 12 minutes and can be done anywhere. It may sound intense, but having the intervals broken up into 30 seconds each will keep it short and sweet! (But make sure to make the most of those short recovery periods!)
- No Repeat Workout: Full Body HIIT with Weights by Heather Robertson
If you have the opportunity to add weights to your workouts, check out this HIIT workout by Heather Robinson for a challenge! She covers 30 different exercises in 30 minutes and uses a variety of weights ranging from small, medium, and large.
- 20 Minute Interval Run by EatMoveRest-- The Stanczyks
If you’re into running (or even if you’re not), try switching up those steady-state runs for some fun HIIT interval training on the treadmill! This workout can be done on a treadmill or outside and is extremely flexible to every level of running. Although running can be intimidating to some, switching it up in intervals can keep it entertaining and provide you with some active recovery in between.
- 9 Minute HIIT Workout for Beginners to Start Your Fitness Journey (no equipment) by 8Fit
Lastly, if you’re just looking for somewhere to start, this bodyweight HIIT workout for beginners is a great starting point. Ease yourself into the intervals, focus on your form, and take pride in yourself for starting and finishing a high-intensity workout!
HIIT workouts can sound overwhelming, but incorporating these high-intensity intervals into your workout has incredible benefits to your body and brain, and they can truly transform your workout ritual. Strengthening your mind and your muscles and getting happy and healthy all at once! Sounds like a win. But make sure to consult with your physician before beginning any new workout program.
Written by Morgan Taylor