High-intensity interval training is the buzzword now because it works.
It's an intense workout that burns calories, stokes your metabolism, and pushes your conditioning to a new level.
Pushing yourself to that limit takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. HIIT is hard, but it's worth it.
If you've never jumped into a HIIT workout before, getting started can be intimidating. Here are 8 things you should know before you start a HIIT workout.
Starting HIIT Cardio
1) Not All HIIT Classes Are Created Equal
That is, no two classes are alike. The acronym HIIT describes alternating intensity levels, not specific exercises.
While some classes have you lifting heavy objects and doing sprints, others may have you doing bodyweight exercises and burpees.
Finding a gym that mixes up classes and keeps things fresh is ideal. If you try one that you don't like, try another type of HIIT workout.
2) HIIT Isn't Just Circuit Training
Bouncing around the gym in a circuit can be fun. You keep your heart rate elevated and you get some great muscle burn going.
In this case, HIIT is more about the timing of your intensity: short bursts of all-out activity followed by a longer period of recovery.
Your calories will burn after you are done working out, and will remain burning for hours after.
While the timing protocol varies, one popular HIIT method is called Tabata. You do 20 seconds of intense workout and follow it up with 10 seconds of rest. You repeat this for 8 rounds.
It's hard, it's exhausting, and it seems crazy... But it's worth it.
3) Don't Forget the Warm Up
Just like lifting weights, HIIT is intense enough that you are putting yourself at risk for an injury if you don't properly warm up.
If you've ever been to an instructor-led HIIT workout, you've probably asked yourself why you started out doing dynamic movements.
Walking lunges and jumping jacks both help prime the body to put in work. Dynamic moves are better for warming up than static stretching.
4) HIIT Workouts Don't Always Require Equipment
Just because you are doing a workout, it doesn't mean you need any equipment.
In fact, many HIIT workouts utilize bodyweight and can be completed anywhere.
Squats, push-ups, planks, mountain climbers, and burpees all are bodyweight exercises that push your body to the limit. Add in the HIIT element and you have yourself an outstanding workout.
5) Don't Be Afraid of Kettlebells
Kettlebells seem intimidating, but they are a pretty versatile piece of equipment.
From swings to raises, kettlebells are picking up popularity in HIIT classes. Learn to love them, or at least learn how to use them properly.
6) You'll Feel Like You Are Dying
Unlike slogging along on a treadmill, HIIT workouts keep your heart and lungs guessing.
You go from giving it "life or death" intensity and the next minute you could be taking a leisurely walk. You won't be able to regain your breath until you are about to start the higher intensity portion.
That's okay, this stuff is hard.
7) You Actually Can Overdo It
This isn't an excuse to keep you from giving it your all, but limited HIIT workouts to two to three sessions a week is plenty.
This leaves time for you to lift weights, enjoy the outdoors, play a sport, do some yoga, or just going for a walk.
8) Rest Days Are King
The gym is there to beat our bodies down so that it can rebuild itself. When it rebuilds, it makes us stronger, faster, uses oxygen more efficiently, and produces power more efficiently.
Getting proper sleep and taking rest days serious will maintain a healthy balance between the gym and home life. You'll feel better, refreshed, and ready for that next HIIT workout.
Listen to your body and learn what it's telling you.
Wrapping It Up
There's nothing that replaces good old-fashioned hard work.
HIIT workouts push your body to the limits and does it in a short amount of time. They are hard, intense, and can be very overwhelming.
Bringing a partner or having a trainer that you are comfortable with will allow you to let yourself go and push yourself to the limit. Get rid of your ego, get rid of the thought of limitation, and push yourself to new levels of physical fitness.