Man about to take off on a sprint

I understand the hurdles that come along with juggling a demanding desk job or navigating the busy life of a parent, time constraints being a huge one. Engaging in an exercise regimen that maximizes results within limited timeframes is key for those who may not have the luxury of lengthy workouts. That is basically what you get with “High Intensity Interval Training,” or HIIT. It’s a method perfectly aligning with my goal to promote sustainable and efficient fitness solutions to get you in a better place physically and mentally.

This training method is far from just a short trend like the 2-week Stanley fiasco. The American College of Sports Medicine identifies HIIT as one of the nation’s favorite cardio workouts. But what makes it stand out from the standard cardio fare?

HIIT specializes in condensed, energy-packed workouts that typically span less than 30 minutes, making them ideal for beginners who are looking to slip into a fitness routine that fits neatly into a busy schedule. These rapid-fire sessions alternate between short bursts of intense exercise and recovery periods, ensuring that your body continues to burn calories even after the workout concludes.

As many have switched from steady-state endurance workouts, like those endless treadmill jogs, to the dynamic world of HIIT, they’ve discovered the value of time-effective fitness. Brands have taken notice, crafting their identities around the efficiency and effectiveness of HIIT (yes, Crossfit, I’m looking at you). But beyond the hype, it’s the promise of a healthier, more active lifestyle with room for work and family that makes HIIT an approach worth considering for fitness newcomers.

Does it work?

Sedentary life is boring. Office jobs suck. Parenting is time consuming and, while you may find yourself chasing the small ones or lifting them in the air, you can’t get in too much activity while they are really small unless you are willing to doll out a ton for childcare or have family or friends willing to watch the kids.

I’m a huge believer that if something is too fancy it doesn’t work as well, and that the simpler something is to do and the less time it takes the more likely you are to do it. HIIT alternates from an intense workout period and a crucial recovery period. All in a shorter period of time than marathon sessions on the treadmill staring at concrete or longing to be on the weight floor instead.

Unlike traditional long-distance cardio, which primarily burns calories during the exercise period, HIIT workouts have been scientifically proven to burn calories throughout the day. This “afterburn” effect is one reason why many individuals are pivoting to HIIT over lengthy, conventional cardio routines. There’s a wealth of other benefits too, including potential metabolic boosts, improvements in insulin resistance, and enhanced heart functionality.

HIIT’s inherent flexibility is its crowning glory. Designing a session that is scalable to your specific fitness level is absolutely doable. Rest assured, as challenging as these workouts may seem initially, they’re known to expedite overall endurance development, making them more viable than the monotonous, steady-state cardio. Undoubtedly, HIIT is a beginner-friendly, adaptable approach to orchestrating your healthful dance between work, family, and fitness and fast forwards you on your overall wellness journey.

Why is it so effective?

Anaerobic vs Aerobic chart

HIIT capitalizes on the ‘afterburn effect,’ which continues to incinerate calories long after your session is over, thanks to the workout’s oscillation between aerobic and anaerobic states.

The term “aerobic” translates simply to “with oxygen,” a form of exercise reminiscent of a Richard Simmons (some of you are probably too young to know who that is) routine. It includes activities that elevate your heartbeat and breathing rate – think jogging for thirty minutes, swimming, or cycling. Your body responds by delivering more oxygen to your heart and muscles, sustaining your activity for a longer period without depleting energy stores rapidly.

In contrast, “anaerobic” means “without oxygen.” During a HIIT workout, you push your body beyond what your oxygen supply can handle. This leads to energy being sourced directly from your muscles’ reserves, a process which naturally escalates calorie burning not only during the exercise but also long after—when your body works to replenish those energy stores and repair muscle tissue.

Understanding these principles is less about grasping complex scientific terms and more about seeing the potential for transformation in your own life. HIIT for beginners isn’t a steep cliff of impossibly intense activity; it’s a customizable stepping stone towards achieving a healthier lifestyle without needing to overhaul your entire schedule.

Alternating Calorie Burns

In HIIT, the interwoven periods of rest and high intensity pull you in and out of the aerobic and anaerobic states. Thanks to that alternating pattern, you get a double benefit when you do a HIIT session; the at the moment, higher calorie burning of aerobic exercise and longer duration calorie usage brought about due to anaerobic activity. Your body sustains higher overall metabolic rates during the workout and keeps burning calories as if you were in an extended rest period throughout the day.

Active calorie burning from a HIIT session can last up to 72 hours after a single workout. You could experience around 70 more hours of active calorie burning compared to a typical 30 minute cardio session!

Who is HIIT Good For?

If you can do it, it’s good for you. People with injuries, lack of time, or even those severely out of shape can benefit from this type of training. HIIT can be customized to basically everyone; barring those with medical issues or doctors orders.

Injuries

Battle ropes

High-intensity interval training workouts offer a perfect solution for those weary of exacerbating joint issues or previous injuries whether they are a beginner or a veteran. A significant concern with sustained, high-impact cardio activities is the physical toll they take, often causing discomfort or pain. A bit of discomfort or pain doesn’t mean you are broken, though. And even if you are there are things you can do to elevate your heart rate

HIIT is versatile, extending to numerous low-impact exercises that maintain the integrity of your joints while ensuring an efficient workout. Some examples include engaging with battle ropes, executing medicine ball throws, or operating a rowing machine at a faster pace or heavier resistance.

Recovering athletes frequently use this versatile workout method in their rehab process. Being highly adaptable, HIIT is as gentle or as demanding as you design it to be, allowing you to gradually regain pre-injury fitness levels. Simultaneously, it caters to your body’s healing needs, preventing further aggravation of existing issues.

It’s important to remember, any workout routine, including HIIT, should align with the nature and extent of your injury. Therefore, always consult a healthcare professional before starting or altering your exercise regimen. With the right approach, HIIT can open up a world of fitness possibilities without exerting undue stress on your body.

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Time Constraints

Anyone without a lot of time to workout will appreciate HIIT. Many Tabata workouts, for example, last 4 minutes. Such short (and effective!) workouts remove the ‘no time for exercise’ excuse from pretty much everyone. They are a great choice for people on vacation who want to continue to exercise without cutting into relaxation time, busy parents shuffling kids around, or those cooped up in an office looking for something quick on their lunch break.

In reality, HIIT is great for anyone looking to quickly improve their overall fitness levels, increase total calories burned, and build up endurance; as well as those who just suffer from old injuries or lack of time. In short, anyone can benefit from these types of workouts.

How?

If you don’t know where to start, there are hundreds of HIIT workouts available online for free. You can take any pre-made routine and use it as is or adjust as needed.

Starting off can be a bit difficult if you don’t know how hard to go. Depending on your fitness level, you can start with a thirty seconds active – thirty seconds rest tempo. If you find that 30/30 is too hard, modify the tempo to thirty seconds on and one minute off. The longer the rest period is compared to the active period, the easier the workout will be.

Likewise, if 30/30 is too easy adjust the rest period downward.

Build Your Own

The wonderful flexibility of HIIT lies in its lack of strict rules—it’s all about selecting exercises that cater to multiple muscle groups for an effective full-body workout while raising your heart rate to the correct level. For example, mix the leg-focused power of jump lunges with the upper-body engagement of shoulder taps, to target several major areas in one powerful routine!

For the daredevils looking to push their limits, consider a challenge like completing 10 burpees at the start of every minute for 8 minutes. The quicker you finish them, the more you can enjoy your rest until the next round.

Always warm up and stretch before your HIIT workout! A solid warm-up primes your muscles, while stretching both before and after can significantly lessen the risk of injury.

To add an extra layer of intensity, sprinkle some low-impact exercises into your rest periods. Holding a plank or a wall sit can still allow your heart rate to recover while your muscles stay active and engaged.

Sample Beginner HIIT Workout:

  1. Warm-up: 5 minutes of brisk walking or light jogging
  2. Stretch: Dynamic stretches focusing on legs, arms, and back
  3. Circuit (Repeat 3-4 times):
    • Jump lunges (30 seconds)
    • Rest (30 seconds)
    • Shoulder taps (30 seconds)
    • Rest (30 seconds)
    • Burpees (30 seconds)
    • Rest or plank hold (1 minute)
  4. Cool down: Gentle stretching for all major muscle groups

Give this workout a try and you’re likely to feel rejuvenated and energized. It’s perfectly structured for beginners, promising a productive exercise session without the risk of overextending. Always listen to your body and remember that HIIT is about progress at your own pace, aligning with our mission to make fitness attainable and enjoyable for all.

Then, go build your own. Combine some of your favorite movements and add them into a high intensity circuit.

HIIT can be Fun

High intensity interval training can be incredibly fun and rewarding. The shorter duration’s and more intense workouts can put you in a state of euphoria afterwards. Maybe HIIT can be a new way for you to change up the cardio you are already doing during your everyday routine. After all, since anyone can do it and it doesn’t need much equipment (if any), it’s good for an on-the-fly workout.

Whether you’re travelling or home with the kids this may just be your new favorite workout.

Don’t forget that to replenish all those energy stores you worked off. Check this helpful guide for help hitting your nutrition goals.

Let Us help You Out

At CONDITIONerd we are here to help you achieve better physical and mental health through exercise. Check out the plans we offer to our customers and see if you could benefit from working with our team. And if you have questions, you can always contact a CONDITIONerd team member

Personal trainers, like those found here, can help guide you on your pathway towards reaching your fitness goals, whether that is getting bigger, stronger, faster, more lean, or just generally feeling better.

We can get you setup with a periodized workout plan, supplement information, and advice on nutrition to help you reach your goals.

The only thing you need is some motivation and a willingness to change some old habits.

Get into contact with us to find out what membership is right for you. In a CONDITIONerd program, you’ll be surrounded by others who can help you to get where you want to be.

Generally, our clients start to see some pretty awesome changes in 2-3 months time, some sooner.

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