Hittin’ the HIIT

Soooo…guess what? I forgot my camera at work today. I didn’t have many food pictures to begin with – but I always like including my yummiest eats in my posts! Ah well, you will just have to wait until tomorrow to see the awesome breakfast I had (I know, you’re holding your breath, aren’t you :P)

Anyways I do have a lil’ somethin’ I want to discuss tonight. It’s called interval training. Namely, cardio intervals.

I love interval training. Especially in the wintertime when I’m stuck on boring gym equipment. I especially love doing something people fondly refer to as HIIT – high intensity interval training. This is doing what I like to call “sprints” or just a burst of high intensity cardio, followed by a period of recovery, and repeated several times. Because it’s high intensity, it shouldn’t be drawn out for too long.So it’s a perfect way to get sweaty and breathless in a short period of time. You can do it on things like treadmills, ellipticals, rowing machines, stair machines, stationary bikes, or basically any machine you can get your hands (or feet) on.

First and foremost, you need some sort of continuous training base before attempting interval training. You should be accustomed to exertion, because well, you’re going to exert yourself!

Interval training is based on a work-to-rest ratio. What ratio this is depends on your fitness level. Some people are fine with 1:1, some require a little more rest in-between like 1:3. I personally like 1:2, particularly one minute of work followed by two minutes of rest. I don’t recommend recommend doing your high intensity intervals longer than two minutes as it’s hard for your body to provide proper fuel after that length.

However, even short bursts of 10 seconds work, followed by 30 seconds rest is perfectly doable. This could be something like jumping jacks, followed by marching in place for recovery. These shorter bursts can also be done in “sets” with an easier recovery in between. (Hmm, sound like weight lifting to anyone else? Hint hint ;) )

Proper relief between intervals is important so your body has time to replenish its ATP stores, otherwise it will rely on lactic acid (ie ow). Relief also clears the lactic acid in your system and helps its ability to handle it.

But what is this ATP I speak of? ATP is a chemical compound which stands for adenosine triphosphate. More importantly, when food is broken down, the energy it releases is captured by this compound to power your body’s cellular needs. Basically, if you want to perform an activity, you need ATP. 


The easiest way to monitor your intensity is by heart rate. I have a Polar F11 heart rate monitor to do this. Today for example, I peaked at 183 bpm during my treadmill intervals. This is damn high for me, and I knew I was challenging my cardiovascular system. But I also like to keep an eye on it to make sure it lowers enough during my periods of recovery. A lot of people have the tendency to work too hard during their rest interval. Mine will often dip down to 140 bpm during recovery, but it’s all up to the individual.

If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, the RPE scale is a pretty good measure. It stands for rate of perceived exertion. In order to not make this post a novel, go read Janetha’s amazing post on the RPE scale to get an idea of how it works.

Intervals also lead to something called EPOC, aka excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. This is when your body continues to take in oxygen after exercise is finished. This doesn’t happen as much in steady-state cardio because there is faster recovery, which means less of an oxygen deficit. But in anaerobic activity (when the body can’t get oxygen to the muscles in time to produce ATP) there are increases in lactic acid, body temperature and hormone levels. Depending on the intensity and duration of exercise, it can take up to 24 hours to return to normal oxygen levels. This is commonly referred to the “after burn” in weight lifting – when your body continues to burn calories at an increased rate for a certain amount of time after you workout is finished.

On top of the sweet after-burn, interval training will also increase your speed and endurance. You will train your heart and muscles to endure high levels of intensity, making it feel easier the next time you do it.

Okay, so let’s recap all the awesome things about high intensity interval training:

  • It’s short and efficient. You can challenge your ticker and burn calories in a shorter period of time than with lower intensity cardio.
  • It breaks up the monotony. You’re always changing it up so it keeps you interested.
  • Mentally, it’s easier to talk yourself into, knowing you’ll get a period of rest between each interval.
  • EPOC. Depending on what you do, you can burn calories at a higher rate for a certain period even after you leave the gym.
  • It will build your endurance, training your body how to handle higher exercise intensities.

A few things to remember:

  • You should only to anaerobic training 2-3 times a week.
  • Remember to warm-up and cool-down for at least 5 minutes. An improper warm-up will use up your body’s ATP stores so you don’t have access to adequate stores during your actual workout. It’s also important to get your heart rate back to normal during your cool-down, as well as flush out the lactic acid in your muscles.

Any questions of the day for me to answer? How about you? What’s your favourite interval workout?

Posted on February 9, 2010, in Health, Workouts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. I LOVE interval training. I do one interval run a week (did mine this morning) and usually add intervals into my other exercise. Even strength training I will alternate a move that gets my heart rate up (like squats or lunges) with a more stationary move!

  2. what great info girl1! i love interval training too..i love getting on the elliptical and doing 20 sec HIGH intensity followed by a 10 sec rest..and repeated!

  3. This was AMAZING! I’ve heard about HIIT all over the blogworld. Since I’ve been in recovery from an ED since I started reading blogs, the workouts were less applicable to me because I wasn’t allowed to work out just yet. But now, I’m just about at my healthy weight and have been slowly incorporating exercise back in a healthy manner.

    I would totally love to try this workout. It seems really exciting and a great change of pace. You explained in a great way – VERY personal trainer sounding ;) You’re gunna be so amazing at being a personal trainer. I’m jealous of the Canadians who will get to employ you LOL

    Can you do a similar post with a weight lifting informational? LOL

    Nicole G

    • Ha, I could definitely write a novel on weight lifting!! I’ll start working on some shorter posts about certain aspects of lifting though, hopefully they will be helpful :)

  4. Great post! I enjoy intervals more in the winter too, I think they warm me up faster. I typically do run/walk intervals with elevation changes on the treadmill, to avoid boredom.

  5. Thanks for the info! I havent tried doing HIIT because I dont have a treadmill but think I could try it out on the track as well!

  6. This reminds me how much fun (and how killer) HIIT is! I don’t know if I do it “right” but I know it sure feels hard when I’m attempting it, so something must be working! I should show this to Mitch, who doesn’t really believe me that HIIT can be as effective as steady-state cardio. Silly boys :-)

  7. I am a big fan of intervals. I have always found that steady-state cardio gets boring.. fast! I think it is, by far, the best way to get and keep my HR up!
    Can’t wait to see that breakfast!

  8. I love how you’re using your certification! Valuable information for the people to get!

    I personally love hill runs! Love, love, love them! Love making people do them, and love doing them myself- nothing beats it!

  9. My fave interval workout is running up and down the stairs 17 times because I forgot a sock in the dryer and then I have to take out a dirty diaper and then the phone rings and then I have to run down and unload the dishes. That’s “intervals” round here :)

  10. I like intervals on the elliptical or treadmill. Or just alternating plyometric moves into my usual cardio.

  11. i am so lazy, i never do this. but i should! because during the rare times i do, i feel SOOOOO GOOD and it doesn’t take very long either!

    have a fab day lady :)

  12. I love interval training, I rarely do cardio without it- though I really need to get myself a heart rate monitor so I can really do it the correct way!

  13. I love your recap at the end. This is a really thorough “article” for lack of a more accurate word :-)

    I love lvoe love HIIT in any form. In fact I feel like I’m wasting my time with steady state cardio even though I’m sure that’s not true. My HR comes down really quickly so I go back into another interval and I was told I’m hanging out above my lactate threshold too much and burning my muscle- grrr. So now, I limit my HIIT spikes to 3-4 per workout. It’s frustrating, but seems to help.

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