If you know anything about fitness, you have probably heard the term “Interval Training” and/or the phrase “HIIT” before. If you don’t know what it is, or why it’s a great form of exercise to incorporate into your routine, I will be the first person to tell you what it is and why it works!
I know for me personally, interval training has been a great form of exercise because it's quick, effective, and straight to the point! I started doing this type of training to replace some of my long drawn-out cardio sessions, and to get in shape for my wedding. Within weeks I noticed a higher level of endurance, and fat loss than I had ever noticed with hours of cardio.
Over a year later, I have kept interval training as a part of my fitness routine and usually do two 30 minute interval workouts a week, along with one steady-cardio session (like kickboxing, a walk, or run) and one to two weight training sessions a week! I have found that my body is much more toned, fit, and I have much more energy doing interval training in place of my long cardio sessions! I also have more time for other things in life, which is always important! :)
SO...What Is Interval Training!?!
Interval training (or HIIT, which simply stands for High Intensity Interval Training) is a form of exercise that involves short periods of high intensity exercise (think sprinting) followed by longer periods of low to moderate intensity exercise, (think jogging or walking).
Why Is Interval Training So Great!?
- If you’re stuck in a workout rut, intervals can be a new and interesting way to beat boredom and get in shape.
- Interval training is a great form of ‘cardio’ exercise (especially when your goal is to loose weight) because it allows you to burn calories both during and after your workout because it takes longer for your body to recover from this type of exercise than a steady cardio workout, (think a long steady jog).
- Interval training is also great for fat loss because it uses both carbohydrates and fat to fuel your workout. This will improve your athletic endurance as well as your fat-burning potential.
- In addition, studies have shown that when people loose weight, they tend to not only loose fat, but muscle as well. Interval training has been shown to limit the muscle loss that can occur with weight loss, in comparison to traditional steady-state cardio exercise of longer duration.
How Do I Incorporate Interval Training Into My Fitness Routine!?
To get the benefits HIIT, you need to push yourself to your MAXIMUM EFFORT during the high intensity part of the workout, (meaning you are pushing so hard you don’t think you could possibly go any harder, to the point where you feel like your almost out of breath). And during the low intensity part of the workout you allow your body to replenish your oxygen and energy (think of this as a time to recover and catch your breath).
How Often Should I Do Interval Training?
You don’t need to replace all of your aerobic exercise for interval training. In fact, you shouldn’t do interval training more than 2-3 times a week in order to give your body enough recovery time. A good balance, for example, might be two sessions of HIIT per week, along with 1-2 sessions of steady-state aerobic exercise. As usual, moderation is the key to long-term success, so challenge yourself, but give your body the rest that it needs as well!
Here Are Some General Interval Training Guidelines
- HIIT is designed for people whose primary concerns are boosting overall cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and fat loss, without losing the muscle mass they already have.
- Before starting any HIIT program, you should be able to exercise for at least 20-30 minutes.
- Because HIIT is physically demanding, it’s important to gradually build up your training program so that you don’t overdo it. (Note: This exercise is not appropriate for people with heart problems)
- Always warm up and cool down for at least five minutes before and after each HIIT session.
- Work as hard as you can during the high intensity intervals, until you feel the burning sensation in your muscles.
- Full recovery takes about four minutes for everyone, but you can shorten the recovery intervals if your high intensity intervals are also shorter.
A Sample Progressive Interval Training Program
Here is a sample eight week interval training program that anyone at a moderate fitness level can start to progressively work their way up to HIIT training. This basic training program can be further intensified by adding longer periods of high intensity intervals, shorter recovery periods, or both.