Whether you’re a power-walking aficionado or you’ve been running ultramarathons for decades, adding high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to your fitness routine can lead to major performance gains (not to mention visible muscle definition!).
Even if you’re the fittest member of your friend group, HIIT workouts can kick your butt in a totally new way. Not sure what to expect? Heed this advice from Daphnie Yang, ISSA-certified personal trainer and creator of HIIT IT!, a high-intensity interval training workout in New York City – and then get ready to hit your next workout!
1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable
The purpose of high-intensity interval training is to get your heart rate so high that the body continues to demand oxygen for hours after the workout.
Give it your all, huff and puff for air, and know that recovery is right around the corner
“So expect to feel an uncomfortable burning sensation in your heart and legs,” says Yang. “Prepare to gasp for air and trust that you’re doing it right.” The goal of HIIT is to work to your maximum effort for 20, 30, 60, or however many seconds your instructor says. “So give it your all, huff and puff for air, and know that recovery is right around the corner,” Yang says.
2. Make burpees your besties
Fitness instructors love burpees because they’re a total-body strength and cardio exercise. “I guarantee you that any HIIT class you take will have burpees in it,” says Yang. “Burpees are one of the most effective ways to elevate the heart rate quickly while also recruiting lower body, upper body, and core muscles.” Pro tip: Form is key, so make sure your core is engaged and you’re moving with control, no matter how fast you want to go, Yang says.
3. Get ready to be sweaty – all day long
That race face you worked up during class? It may stick around for a while. “Even after you cool down. Even after you shower,” says Yang. “If you’re rushing to the subway, to work, or to meet a friend, it’s very likely you’ll start sweating again. And that’s okay! That means the HIIT workout did its job and created the after-burn effect.”
After-burn, Yang explains, is when your metabolism is elevated for hours after a high-intensity interval workout. Your body temperature is high, your heart rate is elevated, and everything is working hard to regain and restore the oxygen lost during the workout (and all of this burns calories and fat along the way). “So when you’re rushing around at home, getting ready for a big night out and wondering, ‘Why can’t I stop sweating?!’ That’s the after-burn,” Yang says.
4. Work out at your all-out effort level
You don’t need to try to “get in shape” before taking a HIIT class.
“That’s what the class is for,” says Yang, who insists that HIIT-style workouts are great for people of all fitness levels.
“Because HIIT goes for time, everyone gets to work at their all-out maximum effort – and since everyone has a different all-out effort, everyone gets to truly work at their own pace.” It’s all about what you can do during the designated amount of time.
5. Keep in mind that it gets easier – but not by much
The athlete-favorite phrase “It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger” most definitely applies to interval workouts, which are designed to keep fitness plateaus at bay and to get you fitter, faster, and stronger more quickly than a steady-state cardio workout. “A HIIT workout is going to get you in shape faster than doing 30 minutes on the elliptical three times a week,” Yang says. “It’s a bigger physical challenge.”
It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger
Plus, she adds, most instructors are constantly changing exercises to push you harder and encourage participants to work toward their max effort – even as that effort level gets higher and higher.
6. Enjoy never being bored
HIIT workouts often incorporate multiple exercises into intervals. So you may go from 20 seconds of jump squats to 20 seconds of high knees to 20 seconds of burpees.
“Your brain won’t have enough time to get bored,” Yang says. “HIIT can be fun and stimulating, especially compared to performing steady-state cardio for long periods of time.”
Whether you’re doing a 15-minute HIIT workout in your living room or you’re incorporating it into a long run, it’ll go by quickly.
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.