High Intensity Interval Training means that you alternate between a high intensity exercise for a given time and a lower intensity exercise, or rest, for a given time.
My favourite timing is TABATA – 20 secs work, 10 secs rest. Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata popularised this interval timing and his research kick-started the whole movement towards HIIT training as a better alternative to the steady state cardio. Studies show HIIT is more effective at burning fat than steady state cardio such as jogging.
The aim with HIIT workouts is to get your heart rate up to around 85% of its max so that you’re working “anaerobically”, or without oxygen. This leads to EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption), also known as the afterburn effect, where you’re burning more energy throughout the day because your body has to recover from that intense exercise.
How long should a HIIT workout take?
The sweet spot is between 20-30 minutes. If HIIT lasts any more than 30-minutes, you’re probably not working hard enough to reap the benefits. Less than 15 minutes, and you probably haven’t spent enough time at that high exertion level to make a meaningful difference.
HIIT workouts are very metabolically demanding and our bodies don’t differentiate between ‘exercise stress’ and ‘life stress’. If you live a modern lifestyle, you most likely have a lot of other stressors contributing to your total stress levels (challenging relationships at work, or your family and social demands cut into good sleeping patterns).
If you live a busy and stressful life, adding 60-minute HIIT workouts every week might be too much and send your cortisol levels too high (leading to weight gain, as our bodies want to hold onto everything when cortisol is chronically high).
Assuming you sleep well and have some kind of stress management in place (yoga or breathing exercises), incorporating 2-3 days of 20-30 minute HIIT workouts each week may work wonders for your body. This is why our HIIT classes at Thrive are between 35-45minutes long including warmup, work phase, and cool down.
What kinds of exercises do you see in a HIIT workout?
- My favourite form of HIIT that I love is BOXING! It is naturally interval training as you are constantly switching with your partner, and encouraged to work super hard in the work phase
- Kettlebell training such as swings, snatch, clean and press (my ladies have been mastering these ones lately!)
- Rowing or Assault AirBike
- Box jumps and other functional movements
Who’s ready to incorporate some high intensity into their weeks? The only catch is, it means you have to work HARD.