April 12, 2010

HIIT the Gym to Get Results

At boot camp last week, a participant told me that it was "the hardest workout" she'd done in a long time.  I asked her why that was.  She answered, "I don't know - I just don't push myself like this."

And so it is with high-intensity interval training (HIIT).  It holds a level of mystique, of satisfaction, even of intimidation - all of which lead to its underuse, particularly by those new to exercise.  HIIT simply means alternating periods of very hard activity (heavy weight lifting, sprinting, calisthenics, plyometrics) with periods of moderate activity (recovery weight lifting, walking or jogging, stretching).

Because of my busy schedule, whenever I go to the gym, I make it a point to get the most accomplished in the least amount of time.  Why walk at 3mph when you can run at 6mph for half the time (or for the same amount of time and burn nearly twice the calories)?  Why lift endless repetitions of 5-pound weights when you can rock a solid 2-3 sets with 10 or 12-pounders?  Why sit on the stationary bike watching CNN when you can join a Spin class and power up your workout hour?  Don't hesitate to interrogate yourself about why you're doing what you're doing, and what you can do to up the ante on your routine.

Increasing intensity doesn't have to be scary or overly strenuous.  Try parking as far away as you can from the gym and sprinting to the door (if you really want to kick it in - time yourself and try to beat your time each visit).  Ignore all elevators and take the stairs whenever possible, even if daunting (I live on the 11th floor of my building and I walk up from the ground floor at least once every day).  Add short-burst cardio (jumping jacks, burpies, squat-jumps, or jump rope, for example) between weight sets instead of allowing your body to rest.  If you typically use a walking-based program, integrate running in short bursts - try 4 minutes walking to 30 seconds running for a week or two, then 4:1, 3:1, 2:1, and finally 1:1 until you're running half your workouts.

bene-fit is about balancing challenge with support, and high-intensity interval training combined with a healthy diet and group motivation is one of the best ways to achieve optimal fitness and wellness.  How did you "amp up" the intensity on your workouts this week?  Let us know by leaving a comment!


  1. This is a very interesting blog and so i like to visit your blog again and again. Keep it up.



  2. Sharon - thanks for the shout-out, and for the link! We value our readers so much!

  3. I have been dreading my running workouts a little bit recently especially since bene-fit moved to DC. I am really missing my weekly Boot Camp! Therefore, I decided to make my own little boot camp and staggered exercises throughout my run (to break it up like you said in your blog!). It was A LOT more fun and I