HIIT: What, Why, How

 

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been big in gym land for a while now.  Most people who train will have probably tried to incorporate some form of HIIT training into their programm

The main selling point to HIIT is it can provide maximum benefits in a relatively short time period.  It consists of short maximum effort bursts of work repeated with even shorter periods of rest in between.  Generally, a HIIT session would take no longer than 20 – 40 minutes and you can do almost any type of exercise depending on what your focus is that session.

Pros to HIIT training include:

  • Increased fitness – stamina, strength, endurance, agility etc.
  • Promotion of muscle growth due to the increased production of testosterone
  • Increased fat burn
  • Calorie burn not only during the workout but also for several hours after

With the rise of HIIT training within the gym it is natural that HIIT based classes have also become popular and are a great place to try this type of training out, so if you are thinking of trying a class here’s some pointers on what’s out there and what to expect:

  • The number of different options is huge! You could try Les Mills Grit Series, Beachbody’s Insanity, Mettafit, Virgin’s Twentyfour to name a few.  Most gyms will also have freestyle HIIT classes on their timetable (under the name of HIIT or Extreme Intervals or similar)
  • Many HIIT classes will be based around body weight exercises but not all will (Les Mills do a GRIT Plyo and GRIT Strength which used benches and barbells), I do HIIT Group Cycle classes.
  • They are designed to be hard and push you to your limit. People worry about going to classes that look ‘hard’ because they fear they will look unfit.  The truth is as you get fitter you should be pusher harder so the class should always feel ‘hard’.
  • Another truth is that nobody will be looking at you. It’s human nature to be a bit nervous about the potential embarrassment of doing something we might not be very good at but to be honest most people are too wrapped up in what they are doing to notice the person next to them!  I’ve seen someone slip (not badly, it’s ok!) as they were going for it during a class and not one person surrounding them so much as stopped what they were doing or looked over to them – they were concentrating on their workout- so you’d be surprised how unintimidating the classes are once you’ve got passed the initial walking into the room stage!
  • A final truth is that to get better at things you aren’t great at you have to actually do them. So no, you might not be able to nail every move the first time you try a class (and we are talking any class here) but you have to start somewhere to improve.
  • The classes are designed to push you to your edge – but they will be inclusive. When you start out a squat burpee tuck jump may not be attainable and body weight squats might be enough to push you to your limit.  With time and persistence, you will progress and whilst that progression happens the instructor will be able to provide you with options to push you.  Working to your limits is the aim – don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
  • Technique is key. Listen to the instructor and focus on execution of moves over speed – speed will come with time.  Results will come from doing moves well.

A final word of warning – Don’t over do it.  Studies have shown that HIIT has great benefits – however it also puts a reasonable amount of stress on your body so you ideally want to be aiming for no more than three HIIT sessions a week for maximum results.

  • If you take part in HIIT sessions four or more times a week your body will not have sufficient recovery time and you will start to negate the benefits
  • Excessive HIIT training can actually result in muscle loss and create hormonal imbalance – when the Central Nervous System gets stressed the production of testosterone can decrease and your body can start to store fat rather than loose it.
  • HIIT is hard so naturally there is a small increase in the risk of Injury the more you take part
  • Quick bursts of work can help improve stamina but if it is all you ever do it won’t help improve endurance much. A well balanced training plan with a variety of training methods will yield greater results.
  • Online coach Ricky Long (check him out on Instagram @rickylong42) suggests using HIIT a couple of times a week as part of your programme for 6-10 weeks followed by a couple of weeks away from HIIT, sticking to more steady state training to allow the body to replenish.

So ultimately- try HIIT but like everything in life don’t over do it and be sensible!

What to Expect from a Spin Class

Group Cycle, often known as spin. There are other variations such as Les Millls RPM too.

One of the most inclusive classes in a gym.

Also the one that in my experience people are most scared to try.

I can see why- it looks tough (for good reason – it is) and everyone looks like they know what they’re doing (they don’t, honest) and it looks technical (you have to set up a bike – this was my biggest fear at first).

So if you’ve ever wondered about trying a class but aren’t sure if it’s for you here’s the low down (from my perspective) for first timers on how to get the most out of the class.

  • Everyone is welcome- all fitness levels. Yes it will be hard but you really can go at your own pace
  • Every instructor’s class is different. So if you don’t like mine try someone elses – there will be a style you like / format you enjoy / class with music you love out there- shop around! I sometimes teach rides where we work along to the music other times I teach HIIT style tabatta, some people do races and competitions. I won’t be offended if you try my class then I see you at someone elses next week!
  • One thing to note, trade marked classes such as Les Mills RPM will be similar in every gym / with every instructor. They are pre- choreographed and so you will always get the same format – even if you go to a class in a different country. This really suits some people, especially if you like routine.
  • Get there 10 minutes early and say hi to the instructor. Tell them you are new, tell them you are nervous. They will be nice, they will look out for you and they will show you how to set up your bike.
  • There will normally be modifications or different levels you can work at and the instructor will always offer these different options throughout the class- take the ones that suit you. Never tell yourself you are doing the easy option. They are just different and people take different options for all sorts of different reasons.
  • Put some resistance on the bike – going too light sounds like a good idea (especially when you feel like you are going to die half way through!) but it will mean you bounce – this will hurt your bottom, believe me. After my first class I walked like a cowboy for a week.
  • Always make sure your feet are strapped in – loose straps are dangerous. Dangerous is bad.
  • There is normally a brake on the resistance button. Normally by pressing down on it you can stop the feet dead. It’s useful to remember just in case! The instructor will tell you about the bike if you introduce yourself at the start.
  • Don’t be afraid to add resistance when asked to. If you add too much you can always take it off. You’re there to get fitter – challenging yourself is the way to do this. Noone will laugh if you get stuck!
  • Take water – you will sweat, you will get thirsty.
  • Maybe take a towel- I refer you back to the sweat!
  • Taking recoveries is fine. You are meant to work hard- if you push so hard you need to take a moment then well done. The instructor won’t shout at you – just sit on the bike, keep the legs spinning and come back in when you are ready.
  • When you are new it can seem like everyone else is faster and fitter than you. Remember they may have been doing this a long time and have conditioned themselves to last the full class. They will not have been like that in their first class so don’t beat yourself up. Try your best, try and enjoy it and just focus on giving your best effort. Nobody is there to compete with anyone else so just work at a level right for you. Nobody is going to judge you.
  • Cycle classes are meant to be hard- the great thing is as you get fitter you can go faster and heavier so it stays effective and never gets to the point it feels ‘easy’
  • Above all Group exercise is meant to be fun so relax and smile – the music and other people make it more interesting than just sitting on a bike in the gym!