High Intensity Interval Training

by Andrea Dietrich, B.Kin., CSEP-CPT
Fitness and Training Coordinator, Recreation Services at the University of Manitoba

High intensity interval training, or HIIT for short, is on trend these days; however it is not necessarily a new concept. Distance athletes have been using HIIT training for years, though it has gone by another name: fartlek. Fartlek is a combination of Swedish words that translate to speed play. Runners will often use this type of workout to get faster at their craft by running at various intensities for a shorter duration of a workout.

So what exactly is high intensity interval training? We see HIIT as short burst of intense exercise followed by a brief period of recovery or less-intense exercise, typically in a 45-second workout to 15-second recovery ratio. Because of the time engaged in activity and the level of intensity, our bodies rely on carbohydrates as fuel for the working muscles. However muscles also produce by-products that lead to muscle fatigue. That’s why your legs get sore by your twelfth bodyweight squat. Unlike traditional gym workouts, there is less down time between sets so your muscles have less time to recover from the last set (or 3), which keeps your heart rate and breathing up, making it a great cardio work out in addition to resistance training.

HIIT workouts are perfect for those participants who are short on time, say during hectic exam time, when most of your energy is directed towards finishing up assignments and studying for finals. These types of classes are generally 30-45 minutes in length and fit nicely into a quick study break with time for a shower and some lunch afterward. Not only will exercising during periods of high stress help you manage pressure from school, but it will help you focus, get your energy levels up, and also help you sleep better at night.

High intensity interval training is also great for those who are simply looking for a change to their everyday workout routine. If you’re finding yourself less excited about going to the gym to get your usual workout in, it might be helpful to energize yourself by breaking out of the old routine. Not only will it give you a reasonable challenge, but it will wake up your muscles and put them to a new a challenge, which might just help overcome a plateau.

HIIT can energize your workout routine!

Additionally, HIIT workouts are also excellent at torching calories if you aren’t seeing the results you were hoping for from your New Year’s Resolutions. Adding a session or two of HIIT weekly can help you see results if done consistently over a period of weeks.

If you are interested in joining one of our FREE-with-membership group fitness classes that offer HIIT-style programming, we offer the following classes: