Some years ago, I was driving down the road on a stifling mid-summer afternoon. It was one of those days where the haze from the blacktop of the parking lot made visible the very sweltering heat I was feeling.
As I approached my destination, I distinctly recall, for the first time, seeing a group of varying sized and shaped people performing a series of strenuous exercises that appeared bordering on the ridiculous.
Although the conditions weren’t exactly ideal for outdoor activity, I nonetheless observed sprinting, stationary jumps with corresponding thigh slaps, and even lunges.
(Ugh, lunges!) What I came to learn, only later, that this phenomenon was called CrossFit. And, what I assumed would be nothing more than a quick flash in the pan, has become something far more than a passing fad. Looks like the laugh’s on me.
These days, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is, evidently, the way to approach exercise effectively, delivering maximum benefits. The practice basically consists of very short periods of high-intensity movement followed by even shorter periods of rest—and then repeat the pattern.
There are variations on the theme. Some experts suggest 20 seconds of a specific repetitive movement (like a burpee) with a 10-second rest period (and repeating that process for, let’s say, a 3-minute period.) Then choose a different move (like squats) and do the same.
Some workouts beasts swear by three intervals of intense work and then an equal amount of break (per interval) for optimal results. For example, 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off; then 60 seconds on, 60 off; then 120 on, 120 off.
Scientifically speaking, the short bursts of output create a larger consumption of oxygen—forcing the mitochondria to work harder to burn calories. Mitochondria have memory and reproduce cells with the same “thinking patterns”. So, if you are systematically teaching your cells that they have to work hard, they will eventually reset their thinking to burning more energy (and fat). Make sense? Hope so!
Shape Magazine has published a list including 8 benefits of High-Interval Intensity Training. If you like deep dives, check out the article! For those more interested in a quicker look, here are some of the highlights:
You’ll Burn More Fat
In the 24 hours following a HIIT workout, you are more likely to burn a greater number of calories than, say, if you went for a steady-pace run. The workout’s intensity forces your body into hyperdrive, which simply burns more fat.
No Equipment Necessary
One of the factors, which discourages people from participating in certain exercise programs, is the cost! You can’t ski without skis, gloves, poles, and the right clothing.
You can’t scuba dive without certification and gear. And you can’t bike at a serious level without an ever-more-expensive bicycle. HIIT, on the other hand, just requires you to show up. The workout will not be easy, but it’s far more gear-friendly.
Lost Weight, Not Muscle
While diets are good at shedding pounds, those jettisoned pounds often come with a corresponding loss of muscle. HIIT allows you to lose weight while retaining the muscle acquired as a result of the workouts. Not bad!
Location, Location, Location
Whether you choose to meet with a trainer or a group is completely up to you. Because HIIT is not tethered to any particular destination, you can perform the activities anywhere and adapt the workouts to the time and space you have available.
HIIT may not be for everyone. Personally, a game that involves a ball is more up my alley. But, there’s little disputing the impact of the workouts and the devotion of its participants. With results-based backing, you may find HIIT to be a logical next step. You may just find a community of people you’d not met otherwise—and a finely toned booty to boot.