What is your favorite color? What about a favorite movie? Favorite book? Favorite child (just kidding… maybe)? Why do we even have favorites?
If you slow down and think about it, favorites can be very telling. There are all sorts of deep psychology behind it which I won’t get into. Besides, I’m a trainer, not a therapist.
It’s human nature to favor things. It can be the way something makes us feel, something we connect with, or simply a way to form common ground with others. Whether it’s nature or nurture, we all have our own preferences.
In my world, I see this so often in the way people work out. We naturally gravitate towards certain styles of exercise. Some people like a more athletic/training style while others prefer classes with more dance and rhythm infused. If you are moving your body and burning calories, I want to congratulate you!
Now let me ask some challenging questions. How closely does your favorite workout align with your goals? Are you getting the results you want? Would your favorite workout change if the results changed?
I work out 5-6 times every week. I love the variety in all the classes offered at McClure Fitness locally and online. It keeps things fresh and avoids getting in a rut. As much as I like to mix it up, I do have favorites.
I’m also very aware of what my goals are so my favorites can change from time to time. However, no matter what season I’m in, there is one workout that will always be at the top of my list. It’s High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
What exactly is HIIT?
This is going to be a bit of a roller coaster, but that’s perfect because a HIIT workout is a bit of a roller coaster.
First things first, it’s intense. That means you should expect to put in w-o-r-k. That should be obvious, but how often have you “worked out” in the past and didn’t finish fatigued and maybe a little gross from all the sweat? This isn’t intense in a fun way. I think that word is overused and has lost some of its oomph over the years.
Now here’s the slightly better news. The intense parts are in short bursts. Just when you feel inches away from certain collapse, you get a quick rest. By quick, I mean you won’t get too comfortable. By rest, I mean active rest, so you’re still moving.
That’s it! High-intensity work combined with periods of active rest. You can vary the exercises whether it’s bodyweight movement or adding small weights for more strength resistance. There are modifications for all types of people.
At first glance, you may not be falling in love with HIIT. I’m asking you to push yourself hard. Rest sounds more like a tease. You will be challenged. You will feel it the next day, guaranteed. If that’s not enough to get you excited, the benefits should change your mind.
Benefits Of HIIT
If you’re going to put your body through the wringer, there better be some payoff, right? Let’s break down what all of that hard work is going to get you. Think of it as a prize package from your favorite game show.
Calorie Burn – If your goal is weight loss, HIIT workouts are where it’s at. You see, the more oxygen your body consumes, the more calories it burns. HIIT workouts create a massive increase in oxygen intake during the high-intensity and recovery intervals.
Lose Fat; Keep Muscle – HIIT is also great for toning! Your body metabolizes fat for fuel during the workout. It also releases increased levels of hormones to repair muscle damage which leads to an increase in muscle size and definition.
Heart Health – When you work out in the anaerobic zone (that special place at the end of the work interval when you think you’re about to die), your heart is getting a workout as well. Remember, your heart is a muscle too. Improve cardiovascular endurance and overall heart health with HIIT workouts.
Do It Anywhere – The majority of HIIT exercises are bodyweight, meaning no equipment necessary! No equipment gives you the freedom to exercise anywhere. That’s why HIIT workouts can be just as effective at home (with McClure Fitness Online classes) as they are in the gym.
What Your Body Experiences During HIIT
If you can’t tell by now, this isn’t a leisure workout where you can gossip with your bestie and take Instagram selfies on breaks. In fact, if you can do either of those things during the workout, you’re not pushing hard enough. What exactly are you putting your body through? Let’s break it down:
Establishing Limits – To get the most out of a HIIT session, you should know your maximum heart rate. That number is different for everyone, but the basic method is to subtract your age from 220. You have to know when to keep pushing and when to back off. This is why I preach using a quality heart rate monitor during the workout, so you know exactly where you are at all times.
Push To Your Limit – During the work interval, you should be at greater than 80% of your maximum heart rate. It is very hard to have a conversation. You should be breathless by the end of the interval. It may seem like torture at the moment, but you have to stay strong mentally and remember it’s only for a short time.
Rebuilding – During the recovery interval, you should be at 40-50% of your maximum heart rate. You aren’t stopping movement completely, but catching your breath and preparing for the next round. Whatever you do, don’t get in your head and start dreading the next interval; use these moments to regroup and psych yourself up to go hard again.
My Love/Hate Relationship With HIIT
One thing I love about HIIT workouts is you will 100% get the most bang for your time. I know my body is still working long after I finish exercising. This is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Your body will continue to burn calories as gets back to rest state, replaces energy, and repairs muscle. EPOC typically lasts about 2 hours after an exercise, and HIIT workouts generate up to 15% more calories burned in this period.
Now you’re looking at even more calorie burn (win), more fat loss (win), and more muscle growth from increased hormone release (win). What’s not to love? Oh, that’s right – the whole torture roller coaster of the actual workout.
Think about it this way. The intensity of your workout has to match the intensity of your goals. If you’re comfortable with where your body is, maybe you can get away with generally low-intensity exercise and healthy eating – and that’s great! If you’ve got big goals to take back your body, you’ve got to put in the work. There’s no way around it.
That’s the reality I had to face after each of my three pregnancies. My body was so far away from where I wanted it to be. My confidence was shaken. If exercise wasn’t such a huge part of my life already, I could have easily stayed complacent with where I was and chalked it up to mom problems.
But that’s not where I’m comfortable. I knew if I wanted to get back the body I was proud of and be me again, I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. My goals were intense, so my workouts had to match.
I’ll never tell you a HIIT workout is “fun” because it’s not supposed to be. Fun is shopping, date nights, and coffee with your bestie. This is work.
That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Just know that you will be challenged. You will be pushed to your limit, then given enough mercy to catch your breath before you jump right back in. When you finish, you will be spent, but you will also be stronger.
Why are HIIT classes the best classes? Because the results are as real as the struggle. The amount of work you put in is great, and the payoff is greater.
Ready to get serious about your goals and get started with HIIT classes? McClure Fitness Online has the exercise programs you need to go after your goals and take back your body.