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If you aren't familiar with the idea of HIIT, here's some background info from Wikipedia. The idea behind HIIT is that you do a short burst of all out effort, followed by a recovery time. By working out in this pattern of burst/recovery, you are able to elevate your heart rate and keep it elevated at a rate that you wouldn't normally be able to sustain. HIIT is a great workout for people with busy lives (ie everyone) because the high level of exertion from the workout allows you to work out for a shorter period of time and still gain the same, if not more, benefit than a "slow and steady" pace. With a HIIT workout, you really should only be able to workout for 20-30 minutes because of the amount of effort that you are putting into your workout. Theoretically, if you are doing a HIIT for 45-60 minutes or longer, you aren't really doing it right, as you should be putting "maximum effort" into the high intensity parts of your workout, which you would not be able to sustain for that long of a period of time.
Another benefit of HIIT is the exercise post oxygen consumption (EPOC), which is a fancy way of saying that after the workout your metabolism stays elevated for a period of up to 24 -48 hours, which can also really help if you are trying to lose weight and tone up.
I recently listened to a pod cast by Jillian Michaels where she discussed with a listener a plan for a HIIT workout. Her advice was to do a sort of pyramid workout - 30 second sprint, 30 second recovery, 45 second sprint, 45 second recovery, 1 minute sprint, 1 minute recovery, etc all the way up to 1:30 sprint, 1:30 recovery, and then work your way back down in increments of :15 seconds. I tried this the other day, and I have to say it was a pretty tough workout. I consider myself to be in decent shape, and I workout pretty consistently, even doing HIIT workouts fairly regularly, and I still couldn't do it. Maybe I just picked a sprint pace that was too hard or a recovery pace that was too fast (I was on a treadmill) but I only got up to 1:15, and then I had to go back to :30 without working my way back down.
A note for those that want to give this a try - HIIT is really for people that are already in decent shape but who want an aerobic workout where they will not lose as much muscle mass. You should be able to do 20-30 minutes of cardio already. It is not for beginners, and if you have any pain or trouble breathing you should slow down and/or take a break from your workout. Consult your doctor before starting any kind of fitness program to make sure that you are physically healthy enough for the strain of working out.
I'm reading this: High Intensity Interval TrainingTweet this! Posted by Lauren on Wednesday, April 21, 2010