Disclaimer: The information below is for informational/educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional help. Before beginning a new exercise regimen or making any other changes in your lifestyle, always consult with your physician and/or a certified coach.
HIIT is all the craze these days. The ACSM1 was right: You see Paleo devotees running around, sporting their sturdy physiques from all that sweat sesh from CrossFit and P90X.
Truth is, HIIT is nothing new. Experts have been advocating these time-saving workouts that anyone can squeeze in daily in their busy schedules.
While I have nothing against them (I do love a good quick-and-intense burn on most days), I still believe in building a solid foundation of long slow distance before getting myself to that fitness level.
As time goes by, I personally think it’s more important to minimize the chances of getting yourself injured than to get fitter and stronger. I may very well be a timid tortoise, but naturally, the hare that runs around with tremendous energy all day gets higher chances of losing balance, falling down, and breaking a leg.
Trust me, I’ve been there. Instead of reaping HIIT’s benefits, doing it more actually prevents me from building my pace in the long run (poor posture, blisters and bruises, IT band syndrome, anyone?). Matthew Basso, president of Iron Lotus Personal Training, breaks HIIT all down according to your personal goals: If you want to lose weight, build muscles, and gain strength, doing HIIT 1-4 a week is great. If you want to build endurance, it probably won’t help much.
So what exactly is HIIT?
Wikipedia defines high-intensity interval training as “an enhanced form of interval training, an exercise strategy alternating periods of short intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. HIIT is a form of cardiovascular exercise. Usual HIIT sessions may vary from 4–30 minutes. These short, intense workouts provide improved athletic capacity and condition, improved glucose metabolism, and improved fat burning.”
As much as I love intense exercises, I have a long-term soft spot for long slow distance. I think best during and after logging those miles; something about being still and breathing deep provides the clarity I need with all the stormy waters in my head2.
In that sense, these days I’m treating HIIT as a supplement to my miles instead of doing full-circuits of it (although I still do them whenever I feel sluggish), because squat jumps and burpees do get your heart rate up pretty quickly, which comes in handy when your mind tells you to quit the last mile toward the finishing line.
With that in mind, I want to share the standard long and steady workout (with a final sprint!) I do whenever I’m hopping on the treadmill:
It’s more about conserving energy and holding yourself back in the first 30 minutes of getting your heart rate up, saving it all for the end, whereas HIIT is about spending it all right now.
I know the steady state can be boring for many, and not everyone has the luxury to spend as much time if their fitness goals are purely aesthetic. But for me, just the motivation you get to beat your last PR is enough to keep me moving on the ‘mill. Plus, it’s more of a mental work than you think.
Nonetheless, I guarantee you’ll come out stronger – in fitness and in life – by the end of this workout. I recommend bringing some good music to get you longer in the zone.