High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – The Basics

HIIT is one of the buzzy acronyms of the moment in the world of health and fitness. A lot of people, blogs, magazines and gyms are talking about it, but it can be confusing getting to grips with what it actually is and what it does.

You may read a few lines of an article and think it sounds interesting, but not know where to start. You may get the impression it involves sprinting up and down the gym, and worry about feeling silly. You may think that it will be complicated and difficult when compared to running on a treadmill or taking a class.

The purpose of this blog is to try to clear the water a little bit. We’re going to explain what HIIT is, why it’s good for (a lot of) people and how to get started with it.

In a flaxseed-shell, HIIT is short duration, very high intensity training. It takes your heart rate very high, lets you recover, then repeats. It trains your heart and lungs to deal with spikes in effort (which many believe can help prevent heart attacks).

HIIT is hard work, but very, very effective. It improves athletic capacity and conditioning, improves glucose metabolism and burns an awful lot of fat. It’s also fun, exciting and can be much less time-consuming than steady-state cardio exercises like jogging.

There’s plenty of evidence it works better, too. A 2008 study by the Journal of Physiology found that 2.5 hours total HIIT produced similar benefits to 10.5 hours of endurance training. That’s not just due to the intensity of the exercise while you’re doing it – it also increases your metabolic resting rate when you’re finished. That means you’re burning even more fat while you recover.

It doesn’t have to be too complicated either. Take the Tabata method. You do 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise (skipping/sprinting/box jumps/kettlebell swings – it’s up to you) followed by 10 seconds rest. Repeat continuously for 4-5 minutes and see if you don’t feel like you’ve had a cracking workout.

Could it be your ticket off the treadmill? Maybe. Both men and women have seen excellent results when it’s done properly. Due to the High Intensity part of the acronym, though, it’s advisable to check with your physician whether it’s for you before you dive in head-first. Ask one of our staff at the Reynolds Retreat and we can arrange for a personal trainer to talk you through the basics.