Get Fit // High Intensity Interval Training

Today’s post is the second installment of a fairly new S&P series called Get Fit, and features one of my favorite work-outs known as high-intensity interval training, that I affectionately refer to as HIIT (pronounced ‘heat’).

Known for increasing both speed and strength, HIIT is a great option for when you only have a small amount of time but want a big impact, and it has proven to be a great way for me to get in some cross-training on my off days of running.  Keep reading for a full-breakdown of how I use HIIT to Get Fit, and be sure to let me know if you try it for yourself!

The Basics // The main purpose of HIIT is to complete a dynamic mix of aerobic activity with weight bearing movements in order to maximize the peaks and valleys of your heart rate combined with the muscle-building of strength exercises.  True HIIT workouts should fall between 12 and 20 minutes and include a short burst of cardio at maximum effort possible, followed by a recovery period that allows your heart rate to come back down a bit before repeating the next set.  By alternating between the two, your body gets tricked into different stages of heart rate recovery, which provides a more efficient fat-burn along with toned, strong muscles. 

My Routine // There are many different ways to do HIIT, but I’d encourage you to find a good system that works for you, and then just switch it up every now and again to keep from getting bored/burnt out.  Currently I adjust my workout based on how much time I have available and the conditions outside, but most often I’m either doing a Bodyrock.tv video (see below) or some version of the following sequence. 

  • 5-10 minute warmup of a light jog – I head to the outdoor field of a nearby university campus because the stadium steps, bike racks, benches and grassy areas make for the perfect props.
  • 5 sets of 4 minute reps (using a timer, see below for workout break down), Total of 20 mins
    • 1 minute of stadiums* followed by 3 minutes of step upsUsing a bench (or other firm surface that is knee-height or lower), step onto the surface with one foot, bringing the other up to tap the same surface and then stepping down with the “tapper” foot – alternating feet each time.  Focus on putting your weight into the heel of the “stepper” foot to maximize the bootie-sculpting. Advanced: add a jump up off the bench instead of a tap, using your legs and the momentum of your arms to launch you straight up into the air.
    • 1 minute of stadiums followed by 3 minutes of modified push-upsTo get into position, place hands on a railing or wall (I use the top of a bike rack) with arms extended and walk your feet backwards until your body is straight as a board.  Complete as many push-ups as you can in this time, going at your own pace.
    • 1 minute of stadiums followed by 3 minutes of swing squats - Standing next to the backrest of a bench or other hip-height stable prop with feet together, start by lifting your right leg straight up in front you and then swinging it backwards and planting your right foot several feet behind you while sinking down into a one legged squat.  In this first squat, the upper part of your left leg should be parallel with the ground and the knee should not go farther than the toe.  Stand back up by pressing down through the left heel and repeat, alternating sides as you go.
    • 1 minute of stadiums followed by 3 minutes of absI alternate between several different standing pilates movements here because I’m usually too tired to walk over to the grass for sit-ups, but you can do insert whatever ad exercises you like.
    • 1 minute of stadiums followed by 3 minutes of plankThis is a long time to hold a plank pose, but you’d be surprised how quickly your body will be able to work up to it.  My advice would be to keep from looking at the timer as best as you can and to think about a motivator (flat tummy!) or mentally go to your happy place (puppies/sandy beaches/new shoes!). 
    • *Stadiums = Sprinting at maximum effort/speed up and down the concrete steps of the bleachers.  Start carefully if you’re a beginniner, and please watch your step so you don’t get hurt!
  • Cool down by jogging/walking back home and don’t forget to stretch all those tired muscles you just worked while they’re still warm! 

The Gear //  One of the huge draws for this form of exercise is that you can incorporate as much or as little actual equipment as you’d like.  In most cases you can either use props you have at home or that can easily be found in your neighborhood or at the gym, and that’s one of the reasons that this workout can truly be done almost anywhere!

  • I use (and love!) this simple interval timer, because I’m usually jumping/sprinting/using my hands for the entire 20 minutes, and it just stays handily clipped to my clothes without getting in the way or falling off. 
  • Another amazing resource that I recommend to people wanting to give this training format a go, is to check out the website Bodyrock.tvFull dislclosure: some of the posts are a little racy (read: lots of skimpy workout wear and sweaty skin showing), but if you can get past that I think you’ll be hooked.  The HIIT videos that they make and post (I did this killer quick leg work out yesterday!) feature different sequences and are super fast and easy to complete with plenty of adjustments that you can incorporate, as needed.  The best part about Bodyrock, besides the fact that the workouts produce amazing results, is that it’s completely free! 
  • You can make endless amounts of variations to your own system by incorporating cardio machines at the gym, light weights/bands, or even partner exercises to complete with friends.  If you’re feeling intimidated or are afraid of looking silly, you can even start simply by running for the full sequence:  Sprint for 30 seconds and then walk/jog for 3.5 minutes, repeat 3-5 sets and don’t forget to warm-up/cool-down before and after.  (Note: if you aren’t a fan of treadmills or don’t have access to one, try and find a place to run HIIT outside that doesn’t have stop lights or much foot traffic.  A park, school track or boardwalk can work really well because they’re typically flat surfaces with little to no obstacles to get in the way.)

I know that’s a lot to digest, but hopefully you were able to extract enough helpful information and inspiration to try this workout for yourself. :)  Feel free to share in the comments if you have any tips, questions or personal experiences with HIIT, and I’m really looking forward to hearing your feedback on this one! 

Also: What are your thoughts on the Get Fit series… is fitness something that you’d like to see as a continued feature, or do you prefer it when I stick to posting about personal style and pretty things?  Any other specific Healthy Living topics that you’d like me to try and tackle?  I’m no expert, but I do like to dabble, and am always happy to share my experiences and successes with others!

  1. I really enjoy the Get Fit series! I started a very beginner level of HIIT this month after having been sick for a while. I wasn’t able to work out during that time and when I knew I could start exercising again I decided to try HIIT. The bursts of exercise I experience in HIIT, followed by the recovery time has really helped my body regain it’s endurance. And I think the variety of movement that HIIT offers keeps my mind off of the work (and sometimes struggle) and helps me push through, because I know that recovery time is coming and then i’ll be doing a completely different exercise. It’s not like running lap after lap after lap on a track would be for me mentally, so I really like it!

  2. Maria

    I love the fit series!! Definitely keep the posts coming :)

  3. Um, I love this. Also, could you swing by my place in the mornings and make sure I’m working out? That would be great :)

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