I wish that I would of known about HIIT training in my university days. Back when I used to slave away on the stair climber at the gym everyday with the latest Cosmo magazine and my Discman as my distractions to help pass the time. That was literally what I was doing, working out and trying to pass the time until it was over. It was not fun and I could of used that time to move my body so much more efficiently. Steady state cardio, as I was doing on the stair climber is beneficial when trying to increase or maintain your aerobic fitness but if it’s all you do, you will plateau and stop seeing improvements.
HIIT training in contrast, is anaerobic training, which will elevate your heart rate during short bursts of high intensity intervals and can give you an incredible workout in a short amount of time. Researchers are finding that this higher intensity level of training also leaves us burning more fat AFTER the workout is complete then steady-state cardio.
The misconception that existed for years was that you needed to exercise for 45-60 minutes to get any benefit. That hour can be difficult and daunting to fit in and therefore can lead to more people just foregoing exercise because “why bother if I don’t have 60 minutes?” Well, HIIT could be the answer as studies are showing just 15 minutes of higher intensity exercise can often burn as many calories, if not more, then an hour of steady state cardio.
Because HIIT training is more rigorous and requires you to operate at such high intensity levels, it is not recommended for everyday. Three times a week or every other day is a good rule of thumb to allow your body to recover from working so hard. Those days in between could be when you go for a run or walk, bike ride, weight train or take a Pilates or yoga class. Mixing in aerobic training on those off HIIT days is important to help increase your endurance and to minimize the risk of injury from too many challenging workouts. So in other words- mix it up, both are good!
I don’t like to use the phrase “no pain, no gain,” when talking about fitness training. Yes it’s important to push yourself and move your body but the idea that you need to be crawling out of the room every time you complete a workout is dangerous and ineffective. Find a balance that works for your schedule and works for you. To see maximum gains in your fitness, challenge your body in different ways so that you never really adapt to just one form of exercise. Lastly, whatever it is you do to move your body, make sure you take time to celebrate it after. It’s a big deal when we take that time for ourselves and take a minute to marvel on that. You are worth it. You are awesome.