High Intensity (Interval) Training

I’ve recently started incorporating HIT into my workouts both at the gym and at home, and the initial results seem to be good.

HIT or HIIT stands for High Intensity (Interval) Training. And it promises better results with shorter workouts compared to usual cardio techniques.

I’ve never got on with normal cardio at the gym – hours of jogging or cycling. I find it boring and very hard work. The HIT workouts are a lot easier and more rewarding – sprinting then resting – fast then slow – rather than just fixed speed jogging.

HIT isn’t new, it’s been around for a long time in athletics training, but it’s use in general fitness is much more recent. The basic idea is that repeatedly working your muscles near their limit for short bursts of time with short rests in between is more effective than longer more consistent lower intensity cardio.

There are various explanations why this is the case and numerous claims about the benefits HIT produces including improvements in VO2 max, a lowering of insulin resistance, and an increase in fat burning, as well as the more obvious time saving aspects.

I’ve just read “Fast Exercise” by Michael Mosley (2013) which is all about HIT. It looks at the history, and the science behind why it works. I’d definitely recommend it if you want a good introduction to the subject.

You can achieve results with many different activities. Most of the versions I’ve seen involve running (out and about or on the treadmill), cycling, or strength training. In terms of the time intervals there are many different systems (Peter Coe, Tabata, Gibala, Timmons etc. – there’s more detail on the HIIT Wikipedia page) and so it seems likely that the exact intervals are far less important than the overall concept of repeated intensive training followed by short rests.

I’m doing something pretty similar to the Timmons system. On the treadmill I do at least five minutes walking to make sure I’m warmed up before the sprinting – followed by (30 second sprint / 30 second rest) x 5. Then after a resistance work out I do another HIT session on the exercise bike. This time I do (30 seconds flat out / 1 minute rest) x 5.

These times work well for me at the moment. I’m just trying to find a balance where I can work my muscles hard without becoming too tired. I expect I’ll change it up over time as my strength and endurance increases.

As well as the above running and cycling at the gym I’m also doing short HIT workouts at home on my “non-gym” days. I found a great book in the library – High-Intensity Interval Training for Women which has lots of short HIT routines you can do with no equipment. And even though I am not a woman it’s working well for me so far!

So HIT has definitely improved my workouts, I think it’s helping me to lose more fat, and it’s just a nicer (and quicker) way to train.