||Anna Mackay and Artur Nowicki, our Tooting personal trainers from We Are Fit Attitude, on why you should include HIIT in your usual exercise routine and why your body will thank you for it!|
What is HIIT?
This month, we’d like to talk all about High-Intensity Interval Training, a process where you take yourself out of your comfort zone and push yourself to a point where the heart races and the muscles burn. It hurts and it’s tiring, we know (we do it ourselves when training) – but whilst it might seem like a punishment, rest assured it's not. Here’s why...
1. Fat-burning the midnight oil
Long after your HIIT workout, you’ll be burning calories as your body recovers. When you push yourself, your body draws on its energy reserves to help you get through it. At the end of that session, rather like a car needs filling up with petrol after a long journey, your body has to do the same. And it requires calories to help with the restock.
2. All your muscles gets a workout
You have 2 types of muscle:
- Slow twitch. Functions by utilising the oxygen we get through breathing (ie aerobically). So those long bouts of cardio tend to work with the slow twitch muscle fibres.
- Fast twitch. Harder to reach, but these muscles are activated through HIIT when you ‘feel the burn’ because they work without the need for oxygen (ie anaerobically).
3. HIIT builds muscle strength – a must for over 30s
When you compare the body of a marathon runner and a sprinter, it’s clear that the sprinter has a greater muscle mass. That’s because when you sprint, you’re working at high intensity. Those aged over 30 lose a small percentage of muscle mass each year, but HIIT helps slow this process of atrophy. When you’re in your 80s, you’ll still be able to lift yourself from a chair and walk with a spring in your step!
4. You’ll be rewarded with a healthy, strong heart
HIIT training requires the heart to pump harder and more efficiently so that it can get oxygenated blood to the muscles that need it most. The harder the heart has to pump, the fitter it becomes. And it will recover faster so that it can take on another HIIT challenge in a shorter amount of time.
5. Lactic acid becomes your friend, not foe
We’ve all ‘felt the burn’ when we physically can’t do any more. You may have been told the culprit is lactic acid, which builds up when you are exercising and can slow the muscles down. This is partially true – however, a healthy, fit body is very good at making use of lactic acid as it’s a major source of energy for the muscles. If you’re unfit then your body, when exercising, can’t convert lactic acid to energy quick enough. This causes a build-up of acid which is thought to slow the muscles down. HIIT training makes the body more efficient at converting the lactic acid so that we can sustain exercise for longer.
To help you get started, you can download a PDF of ‘The Tooting HIIT’ session. The exercises are simple – just focus on the job in hand, be determined and when you think you can’t do anymore, take a breath and do more! Good luck.
Equipment: your body, a mat, a timer (there’s bound to be one on your phone).
At least 5 minutes. A light jog with a few punches in the air, up, down, and to the front and side. Throw in a gentle twist of the torso to mobilise the spine too.
60 minute workout
Take each exercise and do it ‘tabata’ style – 20 seconds of the exercise with 10 seconds rest. Repeat the same exercise 8 times in total (equating to 4 minutes of each) before moving to the next exercise and repeating the same process.
30 minute workout
Do each exercise one after another for 1 minute each with 20 seconds rest. Then repeat the exercises for 30 seconds each with 10 seconds rest. Then repeat the exercises for 20 seconds with a 5 second rest.
Do each exercise to the point of exhaustion and record how many reps you do. You can do as many sets of the 12 exercises as you would like to – remember though that HIIT is all about exercise to true exhaustion.
Each time you do an unlimited session, record how many sets you are able to do. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll be able to increase the number.
It is vital that you cool down and stretch afterwards, so download the stretching recommendations here.
A few suggestions to add HIIT into your fitness routine:
If you are on a bike, treadmill or rower, add in some sprints to the point where you are breathing hard, or add intervals – 30 seconds of hard effort, followed by a period of normal activity for a minute to allow the heart to recover. You can do as many of these as you like.
Find a heavy weight and do as many reps until you can’t safely do any more. If you have a personal trainer or spotter then they can help you do those last few reps that you might struggle with
3. Find a training partner or join a group session
If you’re dedicated to the gym but stick to a routine, find a training buddy or join a group session like bootcamp or circuits which are renowned for their HIIT formulation.
4. Get a personal trainer
Obviously we’ll say this! However, a personal trainer will set you goals and initiate a programme that will challenge you in a safe and effective way. You’ll be doing HIIT without even realising it!
So go get high with HIIT, train hard and let us know how you get on! Both myself and Artur are here specifically to push our clients further than they thought possible, so if you think you could do with a kick-start then come train with us either on a one-to-one basis or join our bootcamp or bodyfit circuits.
Anna is founder of We Are Fit Attitude, a fitness business based in Tooting. Find out more about her one-to-one and group fitness training on her website, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.