You may have heard of high-intensity interval training and you most likely associate it with pools of sweat, heavy breathing, and lots of burpees. The name says it all: intense, intervals, and training. It’s possible to do interval training, or high-intensity training, without actually doing a real HIIT workout. The truth is that HIIT can be an incredible way to burn more fat in less time, boost your endurance, and improve your cardiovascular system but the key is making sure the intensity of these workouts is at the correct level to be effective.
Intensity is key, which means you really have to work! In order for a workout to qualify as true HIIT, you’ll need to push yourself to the max during every set. Typically, the efforts are anywhere from 20 to 90 seconds. To help gauge your level of intensity use a scale of 1-10 (RPE: Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale) with 10 being your max. When you’re working, efforts should be at or near maximum (i.e.: 9).
Remember that recovering after the effort is essential before attacking the next one. Forcing your body to transition between two states from the anaerobic (high-intensity) period to the low-intensity recovery period in HIIT will condition your heart and result in a high caloric expenditure, which can lead to fat loss. The rest periods are necessary to prep the body and enable it to truly perform at its max during the high-intensity bursts.
The work/rest ratio
It’s simple: work extremely hard, rest, and then repeat! A good place to start for beginners is with a 1:2 ratio of work to rest. This means that you will work your hardest during a chosen activity for around 30, 60, or 90 seconds, rest for twice as long before starting on the next set. As you progress you can transition to a 1:1 ratio and even a 2:1. The shorter the effort and/or session the higher the intensity. A perfect example is Tabata training in which you work to your max for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds off, repeated 8 times for 4 minutes. That’s one set of Tabata. Within those confines the possibilities are endless!
Take it on-the-go
The great thing about HIIT is that it’s quick, efficient, and requires no equipment! If you’re away from your bike, you can access HIIT workouts on Beyond The Ride using the Peloton app. My 5-minute Beginner HIIT will get you started and the 15-minute Advanced HIIT will knock you out!