What is your favorite color? What about favorite movie? Book? Child (just kidding…maybe)? Why do we even have favorites?
If you slow down and think about it, favorites can be very telling. There is a lot of deep psychology behind it, which I won’t get into. 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 often see this 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 helps me avoid getting in a rut. But 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, too.
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 without finishing fatigued and maybe a little gross from all the sweat? HIIT 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 body weight 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 will 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 that lead to greater 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 as they are in the gym.
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 it 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.