The Lowdown: We’ve preached the gospel of the shorter, smarter workout many times – and while we love a good long sweat sesh for sure, we’re sticking by the notion of doing more with less. When it comes to cardio, High Intensity Interval Training, otherwise known as HIIT, is how to do that. A HIIT workout is any training session that alternates between intense bursts of activity and low-to-moderate intensity intervals (or even complete rest). We’re all for doing whatever gets you moving – but if you’re looking to spice things up or fit in fitness that gets you results, HIIT is the way to go.
The Benefits: Both exercise physiologists and weekend warriors alike have attested to the fact that the quality of your workout is way more important than the quantity of minutes. Why HIIT it up? For starters, it’s ridiculously efficient. Research has shown that you can achieve more progress and better results (whether you’re going for body composition or general fitness as the goal) with just three days per week of 15-minute HIIT workouts than three days of moderately jogging for an hour on the treadmill. Not to mention your HGH (human growth hormone), the hormone responsible for increased calorie burn, is activated and goes into overdrive for the next 24hours – meaning your body is reaping the benefits of your workout way after you’ve thrown in the towel for the day.
The dichotomy in HIIT is the key to its awesomeness – while typical cardio stays in the same intensity range throughout the workout, HIIT’s roller coaster-like structure increases both your aerobic and anaerobic endurance, and has been shown to burn more fat than regular old cardio while maintaining all your hard-earned muscle. Two weeks of HIIT, no matter if you’re spinning or swimming, can improve your aerobic capacity just as much as 6-8 weeks of endurance training. Unfortunately, most people rarely push into the anaerobic zone, that glorious place where you’re so breathless that your heart feels like it’s going to pop out of your chest. But that’s exactly where the magic happens for your cardiovascular system – ironically, these short spurts actually help keep your heart healthy so it can go longer when it matters. That’s why many distance runners alternate their training styles by the day – the short speedy workouts help them maintain the slower paces steadily for longer. Amped metabolism + better burn + maintained muscle + less time + healthier heart + a requirement of absolutely zero equipment? “Love” doesn’t even begin to cover it.
How-To: Since zero equipment is necessary, this is one type of workout you can do practically anywhere. If you’re a runner, try alternating 30 seconds to one minute of sprints with 30 seconds to one minute of jogging or walking. If you’re into cycling, gear up and go breathless for 30 seconds, then recover for 30 (if you’re on an indoor cycling bike, remember that speed does not equal “breathless” – crank up that resistance and fight for it!). Into body weight exercises? Choose two or three of the following – jumping jacks, mountain climbers, burpees, lunges, squats, jump rope (if you have one), or box jumps – and do as many of your first choice for one minute. Rest for one minute, then switch to the next choice. Repeat for a total of 15-20 minutes. Trust us when we say that time will fly by – and you’ll have cut your workout time in half. In a season filled with hustle and bustle, that is something to be truly thankful for!
TCM PICK: Get some fitspiration for your HIIT session by checking out our ideas for five 15-minute runs, our bench jump and swing set pike how-tos, the perfect lunge in just three steps, and a two-step guide to stellar squat form.