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    Things are about to get really intense. But just for a little while.

    It’s called high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. You vary your pace or how hard you work, pushing your limits, and then drop back down to a more comfortable zone. Then you do it again -- rev it up, recover, and repeat.

    The payoff: You'll torch calories far more than if you kept 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, NC.

    You’re up for the challenge. Right?

    How Hard Is It?

    “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 how fit you are. The goal is to get your heart rate up to 80% to 95% of its maximum rate.

    You can make your workout short or long. Either way, 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

    For Katie Dugdale of Hendersonville, NC, 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 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.

    “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.”

    How to Push Yourself

    “This type of exercise isn’t for everyone,” Miele-Pascoe says. For example, it’s not for you if you have heart problems, she says. Ask your doctor first if you’re not active now.

    Heart Rate Calculator

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    Heart Rate Calculator

    Ensure you're exercising hard enough to get a good workout, but not strain your heart.

    While you are exercising, you should count between...

    -
    Beats
    PER
    Seconds