As you may recall from my February Review, last month I realized that I had begun to let myself lax a bit in my workouts. I was still completing my five 30 minute workouts a week but I kept finding myself picking level 2 workouts from Fitness Blender instead of the usual level 3 workouts that I had been pushing through before. A lot of these workouts had lines in them about being great for recovery and post-injury which is fine and dandy but I wasn’t actually injured and there were only a few days where I needed to recover from being sick.
With this in mind I knew I had to be a little harder on myself going forward. Yes, working out in general is an accomplishment but I’m not going to see the changes I want in my body if I don’t push myself. My core strength is still nothing compared to what it was last year when I was going to the gym and I think if I tried to run on a treadmill again I wouldn’t last a whole minute. I know I’ll get everything back to where it used to be (and hopefully far past that eventually) but it’ll never happen if I don’t push myself.
That’s where this week’s topic for Fitness Friday comes from; High Intensity Interval Training aka HIIT. Now, I know there are thousands of different articles and blog posts about HIIT and I am far from an expert on the topic but I wanted to share my experience because I think it might be useful for those of you who are interested in getting into HIIT but have never tried it before. Or even those of you who have tried it and not managed to stick with it.
So what is HIIT?
“HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a training technique in which you give all-out, one hundred percent effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods. This type of training gets and keeps your heart rate up and burns more fat in less time.” – Amy Schlinger, Daily Burn
As the quote explains, HIIT is a fast-paced, intense, all out workout. These workouts are meant to get your heart rate up and your lungs working in overdrive. You have brief recovery periods to allow you to catch your breath but it is often just barely enough to move onto the next difficult move.
The nice thing about most HIIT workouts is they are relatively short. These workouts are meant to be quick and fast acting. They get your heart rate up right away and keep it up throughout the workout. Despite the shortness of these workouts you should feel tired by the end of it. Not about to pass out or throw up but definitely ready to sit down, drink a whole bottle of water and stuff your face with some good hearty food.
Why do HIIT over other workouts?
So when I first really began to hear about the benefits of HIIT it was through eavesdropping on people’s personal training sessions at the gym. I never had the money to afford my own personal trainer but I got snippets of information every time I was conveniently positioned on the machine next to a trainer and their trainee. A lot of the times you would see the trainers push their trainees away from the machines to take them through a HIIT workout in the open area. I often wondered why they wouldn’t use all the machines to their advantage but once I learned a bit more about HIIT I began to see what was going on.
From more research, as well as my eavesdropping I’ve learned several different benefits that HIIT provides:
- It strengthens your heart and cardiovascular strength.
- It helps burn fat faster and creates an after burn affect where you will continue to burn calories throughout the day.
- It boosts your metabolism.
- It is a combination of strength and cardio and therefore you’re getting the benefits of both in at the same time.
- It’s incredibly quick: no more than thirty minutes that you can squeeze into your day.
- It helps with maintaining proper blood sugar levels, which is especially good for individuals with Type 2 Diabetes.
- It’s cost effective because it doesn’t require a gym and it rarely requires equipment.
(Credit: Les Mills)
When I was still going to the gym I would design my own HIIT workouts to do in the studio portion of the gym when I wasn’t feeling like jumping on the treadmill or weaving my way through the machines. Now that I know more about HIIT I realize I wasn’t really working myself hard enough in my own routines which is why I’ve opted to following HIIT workouts online instead of building my own.
I find that this workout is really great great for lower body: do enough of them and it’ll definitely feel like leg day. When I was first doing these I was lucky to get through three but I eventually built my way up to doing ten sets as is recommended. It was one of those little non-scale victories that I was very proud of. My plan is to bring these back into my training to try to get back up to that.
The first new HIIT workout I tried was for my full body Sunday workout and it should come as no surprise to find out it came from Fitness Blender (I promise I get nothing from promoting these guys so much, I just love their videos); so for that first taste of HIIT I tried their “Sweaty At Home Cardio HIIT” video.
I liked the warm up on this one, I found it well rounded and it was a good build so by the time I jumped into the actual HIIT moves I was warmed up and ready to go. DONT SKIP YOUR WARM UP. I can’t tell you how many times I used to just jump into a hard workout and think I was ready only to expire much sooner than I should have. Warm ups are so important and they help prevent injury. 5-10 minutes of light cardio and dynamic stretching will go a long way!
As for the HIIT workout I found this one challenging but definitely doable. I had to switch to low impact mods a couple of times but I made it through the whole workout! The only one I truly struggled with were the Bicycle Squats but it had more to do with coordination than anything else. By the end of it I was sweaty and out of breath but actually feeling really great about myself and what I had accomplished.
The next day I decided to give HIIT another try, even if I whined about how hard it was all Sunday. This time I was doing Fitness Blender’s “HIIT Cardio and Abs Workout” workout.
This one was really interesting because of the way they have worked in the core workouts into the HIIT routine. I found that overall the core sessions gave you a bit more of a break from the cardio than I would have liked but at the same time all of your cardio work made it much more difficult to get through those core moves. My only worry is that that caused some issues with form for me which means I wasn’t getting as much out of the core portion as I should have been. This was still a great workout and those 180 jump squats had me ready to cry but I think I prefer the first video over this one.
I will admit, two days of HIIT in a row was way too much for me. I ended up having to move my rest day to Tuesday because I had totally exhausted my body. I’ve learned that HIIT isn’t the kind of thing you want to do every day as is, and starting out I should not have pushed myself this way. In the future I will break these workouts up throughout the week with my other training and my rest days. It’s important to allow yourself to learn from your failures as much as you do from your successes.
With another round of sickness hitting me, I haven’t been able to get any more HIIT workouts in just yet but I plan on getting back into it once I’m at full health again (I sound like a video game character). Reflecting on this and looking at the pictures I took of myself I’m feeling pretty confident, both in my ability and in the way my body is changing. I don’t think I would have ever shared a picture of myself in those tights before and now I actually really like them. There’s still a long way to go but we’re getting there.
With all this being said, HIIT isn’t for everyone and you definitely shouldn’t try to work too far above your own fitness level. Everyone has their own starting place. Maybe give it a try using the low impact mods and see where you can really push yourself. Just remember: it’s meant to be hard. Don’t feel bad if you have to take extra breaks, I know I did. You’ve just got to keep going to build yourself up. Will I be doing HIIT every day? Definitely not. But I do think it’s a good way to push and challenge myself which is definitely what I need to keep doing to promote change. Plus, the more I do it, the easier it’ll become, right?
What have your workouts been like this week? Are you doing any HIIT training? Feel free to share any of your resources or your experiences below. I really enjoy reading your stories and they’ve been keeping me motivated. I hope mine can do the same for you!
10 Incredible Benefits of HIIT Every Girl Needs To Know by We Women Canada
8 Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) by Shape
HIIT Workout: What It Is and Why It Works by Daily Burn
Reasons To Try High-Intensity Interval Training by Women’s Health