Things are about to get intense. Really intense. But just for a short spurt.
It’s called high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. You vary your pace or the intensity of your activity, pushing your limits, and then drop back down to a more comfortable zone. Then you repeat that cycle -- rev it up, recover, rev it up, recover.
The payoff: You'll burn calories faster, better, and longer after your workout’s over than going at a steady rate.
The catch? “HIIT can be tough, and it requires a lot of effort,” says Mike Young, PhD, owner and founder of Athletic Lab Sports Performance Training Center in Cary, N.C.
But you’re up for the challenge. Right?
What Makes a Workout High Intensity?
“'High intensity' means using as much energy as you can during exercise in a small amount of time,” says Laura Miele-Pascoe, PhD, a professor of coaching education for Ohio University online.
Your cardio blasts should be 30 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on your fitness level. The goal is to get your heart rate up to 80% to 95% of its maximum rate.
A typical workout lasts 20 to 60 minutes. And you’re going to feel it.
“You need to train hard enough that the workout is at least moderately uncomfortable,” Young says. “If you're able to hold a conversation during the work periods, you're probably not training hard enough.”
What It’s Like
Katie Dugdale of Hendersonville, N.C., says HIIT gave her energy that thyroid disease had sapped from her for years.
“I’ve never been a morning person,” she says. “But about a year after I started, I realized I wasn’t waking up angry. I was ready to get up and get moving every day.”
Dugdale also started to lose the 50 pounds she’d gained during her four pregnancies. Her results inspired her husband, a runner, to climb aboard the HIIT train.
“When he noticed the changes in me, he started incorporating some of the intense training exercises into his workouts,” Dugdale says. “Pretty quickly, he dropped 40 pounds, and the struggles he’d been having with his sciatic nerve disappeared.”