Say goodbye to boring workouts. This new fad is here to stay.
High Intensity Interval Training is a method of exercise that focuses on super intense and charged bursts of activity followed by rest or less intense activity. If you are like me and many others, this is what you might have done at the gym and called a workout: chatting with your neighbor on the elliptical then doing some nautilus machines, or reading a magazine while on the stationary bicycle followed by free weights for muscle building, or walking for an hour on the treadmill to burn fat? Most people often workout, but do not push to maximum capacity. In HIIT, not only do you go to the maximum, you go to 110% plus. And just when you think you might throw up from the extreme pushing of boundaries, you have a moment of recovery. And then it happens all over.
Although HIIT may encompass various forms of what is traditionally considered aerobic activity, such as biking, running, jumping, they become anaerobic when done at 90% maximum heart rate or greater. Utilizing the fast twitch muscles, and contributing to lactate formation in your tissue, the high intensity performance that can occur under 2-4 minutes, is at the cornerstone of HIIT.
For people who engage in HIIT, their overall cardiovascular fitness and aerobic capacity is increased. You will be able to run/swim/bike twice as long as you would been able to in the past. That makes intuitive sense, as you are training you body repetitively to withstand peak cardiovascular activity.
However, this is not all. The more interesting and exciting aspect of HIIT is that your basal metabolic rate going to be faster. What does that mean, practically? Even after your workout, your metabolism is in a state of overdrive and you will continue to burn more calories and fat than after a traditional workout. Studies have shown that groups who worked out at higher capacity of 75% V02 max (maximal oxygen consumption) vs 50% V02 max continued to burn more fat calories 3 hours post-exercise.
Do you already consider yourself a seasoned athlete? Have you hit a plateau? HIIT can only help you surpass your best time, best goal, whether it is more speed, power, endurance, or strength you are after. A 2009 study by Driller showed an 8.2 second improvement in 2000m rowing after only 4 weeks of HIIT.
But most importantly, what are the chronic changes? In the longer term, people who do HIIT for at least 8 weeks have changes in their muscle and tissue that favor fat burning. There are notable increases in glycolytic enzymes and higher levels of markers of fat oxidation. These adaptations by the body lead to actual transformations in the physique, i.e. less fat and also preserved muscle mass. As they say, the proof is in the pudding, or seeing is believing.
The only way to know is to try it yourself. “The quality, effectiveness or truth of something can only be judged by putting it into action or to its intended use.”
And for those that are practically inclined, the icing on the cake is that HIIT can be done without investing much time and without fancy equipment. You can have effective 30 minute workouts with just your body and no fancy equipment. But for most of us, the benefits of a class or a trainer encouraging us is invaluable.