Cardio workouts are not only an obsession, but also a phenomenon in our community. Everyone from endurance athletes to seniors, soccer moms and weekend warriors can be found huffing away in organized running groups, spinning classes at local health clubs, or on a home treadmill. We’re hooked on cardio training, but how can we use cardio to get the best results for our efforts?
As a fitness expert, I work with clients who often seek similar outcomes, but don’t know how to reach their goals. Some come to me for help with fat loss; others want to improve their 10k running times. One effective cardio tool that I have been incorporating into some of my training programs is ‘High Intensity Interval Training’ (HIIT).
What is HIIT?
HIIT is a powerful concept that describes activity carried out in short, intense bursts of full-out sprints (30-60 seconds at a time) with minimal rest between each sprint. This versatile type of training can be done anywhere, and on any type of cardio equipment at your local health club.
Research shows that high intensity interval training is more effective for both fat loss and cardiovascular improvement than slow and steady aerobic workouts such as long runs and/or walks. For example, athletes such as sprinters, who perform hard for 45-60 seconds at a time, tend to have less body fat and more lean muscle tissue than marathon runners. Think about how athletes in other sports like tennis, soccer, and hockey, all execute high intensity tasks for short periods when they compete and when they train and stay lean year round. HIIT is a very effective way to build muscle, burn fat and reap all the cardiovascular benefits.
It has also been proven that High Intensity Interval Training elevates EPOC levels in the same way an intense resistance training session would. EPOC stands for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption and is defined, scientifically, as the, “recovery of metabolic rate back to it’s pre-exercise levels”. In plain English, it means you keep burning calories at a high rate long after a HIIT workout.
HIIT is effective!
In addition to the effect on your EPOC levels, HIIT is effective because but it makes it difficult for your body to adapt to the activity. If you were to run 5K every single day for the next year, your body would eventually adapt to the routine. At the end of the year, you would be running that 5K much faster than in the beginning and you would be burning a lot less calories than you initially required. The body needs new challenges to keep improving. Therefore, if you’re looking to improve your fitness level or burn more calories by running, you will need to gradually increase your distance. That means spending more time running and training, and less time with family and friends, doing the things you love. HIIT allows you to continue challenging your body without spending a lot of extra time doing it.
My clients love the results and versatility of HIIT, and they are thrilled it can be done in 20 minutes or less. You can do HIIT anywhere, on the treadmill or on a soccer field. One of my favorite places for high intensity interval training is on the big hill at Mooney’s Bay beach. Here are a few tips to HIIT when you’re not in the gym:
- Warm up for as long as you need.
- From one side of the field, sprint as fast as you possibly can to the other side.
- Walk back to the other side. While walking back take a few deep breaths and get ready for the next wind sprint.
- Once you’re back on the side where you started, repeat the sprint and walk back 5 more times.
- In a 25-metre swimming pool, warm up for as long as you need.
- Perform a full-out sprint for 25 meters (or 82 feet)
- If you’re a good swimmer, swim back and relax, get ready for the next sprint.
- Once you’re back, take a few seconds to prep yourself for the next sprint.
- Repeat your sprint and swim backs for 5 more cycles.
Note from Brigadoon Fitness
A HIIT workout is a great way to shape up and loose weight. For beginners it may look intimidating, but once you start you’ll love the benefits! Researchers have found that a 30 minute HIIT workout burned 25-30% more calories than running, biking, or weight training. That’s great news! As outlined above you don’t need a lot of equipment when doing HIIT exercises. But there are some pieces of equipment that you can use in your home gym to help keep you motivated. They are kettlebells, resistance bands, dumbbells, yoga & exercise mat, jump rope, foam roller, and sliders.
Is HIIT for everyone? Well, if you have a heart condition, are pregnant, have osteoporosis, or you are injured – definitely not! Also if you are just starting to exercise, be careful. You don’t want to an injury to sideline you. We always advise you to see a doctor before starting any exercise program.
There must be something about a HIIT exercise program, because it’s been all the rage for the last few years. Maybe this will be your year to try it out!