The first thing to understand about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), or any other fitness trend, is that it may not be right for you personally. The key is to educate yourself on the benefits and the risks with anything new and judge whether or not it’s right for you as well as consult a fitness professional whenever possible.
If you read or watch videos about fitness you’ve probably heard about HIIT. In its basic form HIIT consists of short bursts of high-intensity exertion alternating with a timed period of slower recovery. There are hundreds of derivative workouts that build off this but the basic principle is go hard, then recover, then do it again. This is often touted as the hottest new trend with claims that it will cut fat, increase muscle development and increase cardio faster and better than most anything else. These claims have merit, but HIIT is not new and there is plenty of research to weight the cost/benefit of this type of training. Men’s Health magazine put together a great top ten list for 2018 and HIIT was at the top, but they wisely added this caveat:
“One catch, though. Fitness pros don’t love recommending HIIT to their clients, since it has a higher rate of injury, according to the ACSM.” They link to a good article on The Smarter Way to Do High-Intensity Interval Training.
The article touches on something that I believe is key and is fairly easy to understand: the workouts that produce the fastest results can also have the highest risk of injury. Just ask any pre-season football, track or soccer teams. The two or three-a-day high-intensity workouts are great for getting in peak condition for the season but take a look at the sidelines for how many elite athletes are out due to injury. The reason is that performing at the highest level of intensity and athletic ability is performing on the edge of injury. For athletes hoping to make a team or at the highest level of the sport, it’s a risk they may need to take, but for average adults it might not be worth it. A saying from when we used to play men’s league soccer was always “Don’t forget, we all have to go back to work tomorrow morning.”
How can someone get the benefits of HIIT while reducing the likelihood of injury? First, don’t necessarily start on your own. Start with a class or a professional who knows what they are doing. If they are good at what they do they will have designed a class that reduces the risk and raises the level of fun in its place. They will also be able to spot fatigue or problems with form and have you make adjustments. Second, you need to know and listen to your body. If you are going to work out at high levels of intensity you need to know your body well enough to know when you can push and when you must rest. Can most anyone do classes that incorporate HIIT at Vermont Sport & Fitness? Yes, but not without knowing their body. More important than fitness level you need to be able to stay within yourself and throw pride right out the window.
The trainers and instructors at Vermont Sport & Fitness take great care to bring the benefits of HIIT, in a safe and fun way, to our Boot Camp and My Intensity Interval Training classes. With time and dedication these classes provide the results our members want without pushing their bodies past what is safe. If you want to try something new, work hard, and listen to your body for cues, HIIT might also be your fitness trend for 2018. If you’re not sure, ask one of our instructors or watch a class to see if it looks right for you.