OK so you just signed up for Class Pass or a new gym and you want to check out some classes.
You’ve heard that HIIT training is awesome and it’s all the rage so decide to give it a try, but then you freeze — because you’ve also heard it can involve sprinting and doing Burpees and other exercises to the point of wanting to puke (sorry but it’s real) so you hold off another week until you feel you are strong enough or fit enough to make it through the class. And then another week goes by… and another…
If the above describes you — this article is for you!
And if you’re that person who is already doing HIIT classes but wants to get more out of them this article is also for you!
But first what exactly is HIIT training anyhow?
Basically HIIT stands for high intensity interval training and it really can vary in format and program style depending on what studio or gym you go to take a class but the main component that stays consistent is that it’s timed bursts of movements/exercises done at full out effort with very short breaks in between.
The result is an elevated heart rate for a longer period of time than your basic weight lifting or steady state cardio session which in turn burns more fat in less time.
Actually, it’s a bit more scientific than that and involves EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) and a few other things — but that’s a topic for a different article.
This article is to arm you with a few quick tips to make sure you maximize your HIIT workout each and every time.
Let’s jump right in but keeping in mind that the class format will vary from studio to studio in this article I am focusing on the HIIT class formats that utilize treadmills for sprints combined with floor exercises.
Since I am based in Beverly Hills, California here are the local LA based studios that offer this style — I’m sure there are more but these are the main ones I am most familiar with.
Burn60 Studios – full disclosure – I am partial to this one since I also happen to teach here.
Here’s my 6 quick tips for crushing every HIIT workout:
1. Know your body and listen to it:
In other words know your limitations – which can vary from day to day. I always remind my class students to do a body scan and check in to see if its a “yes day” or a “no day”.
If all pistons are firing and everything feels good to go – that’s a “yes day” and this is the time to push extra hard. If you scan your body and things are a bit achy or you feel a twinge in your knee or your back etc. this is what I call a “no day”.
This doesn’t mean you don’t workout, it just means you modify the high impact exercises and/or hold back a bit so you don’t risk an injury.
This way you still benefit from the gift of movement but you honor your body along the way.
You will still leave feeling better than when you walked through the door but you walk out – rather than limp out.
A side note to that – when having a “no day” and need to modify the exercises safe bets are pushups (providing you don’t have shoulder issues) or crunches or plank holds – and then join the class again when the next exercise suits what your body is able to do.
The most important thing is to keep moving (unless in plank which requires a more static position)
2. Managing Your Sprints:
Look lets face it – not everybody’s BODY can handle sprints – whether from wear and tear or chronic injuries; but whatever the case may be – I’m here to tell you it’s OK, you can still benefit greatly from this type of HIIT class.
There are so many options on the treadmill. As someone who has a chronic recurring 15 year old hamstring injury – flat sprinting doesn’t always agree with my body so I have come up with some fun and super effective calorie burning alternatives.
The two main things I do to get my heart rate up and burn tons of calories are:
1) grab and hold 3-5 lb dumbbells while walking with your incline somewhere between 8-15% at a speed between 3.0 – 3.8.
2) Do the same runs as the group but on an incline.
For example. If it’s a 30 second flat sprint where you might normally do 10.5 mph – take the incline to 6% and run at 6.0 mph or more.
Trust me – your heart rate will still get very high! This has made all the difference in my training since doing my runs this way and I haven’t re-injured my hamstring and still feel amazing after every treadmill workout. And ps… yes, you still get the endorphin high!
As an aside – some ladies in my classes have asked me “will my thighs get bigger from running or walking on an incline?” The answer is NO!
In all my 20 years as a personal trainer and fitness consultant I have never seen someone’s legs get bigger from doing incline running or walking.
Think about it – how many hikers have big legs? Of all the women (and men) in LA who religiously hike Runyon Canyon day in and out, sometimes twice a day, do you know any with huge muscular thighs from hiking?
Now maybe if you ran uphill for hours at a time day after day you would build bigger legs but even then its doubtful as women just don’t produce enough testosterone for it.
But I digress and that’s yet again a whole other article.
And to really put my suggestions to the test, get a heart rate monitor (my favorite is the F4 by Polar) and see how much your heart rate spikes when you add weights to your incline walking and when you do incline sprints.
You will be a believer in one session and in return preserve your body for the long haul of enjoying and benefiting from HIIT training classes.
3. Current injuries or body issues:
This is so important – be sure to always tell the teacher if you have any issues so we can look out for you and give you modifications where needed.
Also, so that we don’t push you to do more than your body should be doing in that moment.
Give us the opportunity to support you wherever you’re at!
Remember fitness should be a fun lifelong endeavor so set yourself up for a healthy and happy journey!
4. How light or heavy:
When choosing your weights/equipment for class, if it’s not clear what the weights will be used for, you can always grab two sets a lighter and heavier set – this way you don’t have to break your stride or momentum if during an exercise you realize you’re tired and need to drop weight or conversely, you feel super strong and want to go up in weight on the next set etc.
Proper weight selection will make a huge difference in the class but be patient with yourself as you may not always know right away what weights you need for some exercises even with a suggested weight from the teacher as everyone’s strength varies.
5. How Many HIIT Classes Per Week:
Well this can be a tricky answer because everybody is different and has different body issues and life stressors etc. but in general if you are that person that pushes all out in every class I suggest no more than 3-4 a week.
If you want to do more than that accept going at a less vigorous effort and be OK with that or trust me on this – your body will eventually break down physically and/or you will experience training burnout which is a similar mental feeling to a low grade depression or similar just general lethargy.
Both of these are the opposite of what your fitness journey should be about.
When you limit the times per week you do HIIT training you will look forward to it that much more and give more each class ultimately leading to better results.
Imagine if your favorite dessert, like in my case, anything covered in peanut butter, coconut and bananas were available to you every single night, eventually it would lose its allure and your desire for it would slowly disappear (well maybe but sometimes less is MORE.
NOTE: Of course there will always be that superhuman person who can defy this suggestion and go 6 times a week and never sustain an injury or mood changes. Hats off to you whoever you are!!
6. Honoring YOU:
Finally, and I think this is the most important thing – remember, it’s not you against the person next to you on the treadmill or the floor because we never know their journey or their background and comparing yourself doesn’t serve you in the highest way possible.
During class – it’s you against you – and I don’t even like to use the word against – as it’s more about YOU in support of YOU – doing more and better every single time.
That’s the true definition of progress. After all “practice makes progress”.
In each class your goal should be to do the best you can given what your body is capable of on that day.
So as I get ready to end this article I realize there are so many other tips I want to share – so stay tuned for a part deux to this post.
In the meantime – know that when you walk into your first or your next HIIT class, in my humble opinion, you’re in the right place at the right time as I truly feel HIIT classes are not only the fastest way to get fit, strong and sexy but also the most fun!
So what are you waiting for — walk, run or lunge to your nearest class and get your HIIT on! And hopefully, one day you will even end up in mine!