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Why Choose High-Intensity Interval Training to Get Fit?

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High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT for short, alternates between bouts of intense activity followed by less intense exercise or even resting. An example is this 15-minute fat-blasting routine: run as fast as you can for one minute; walk for two minutes; repeat this cycle five times. Sounds too easy doesn’t it. Try it and find out just how difficult it is.

But blasting fat is only one reason to do HIIT training. Five more are:

1) Builds a healthier heart

The bursts of increased intensity pumps up your heart rate, making it stronger and able to pump more blood. A study done in 2006 showed that after doing eight weeks of HIIT, the participants could bike twice as far at the same pace as they could before the study.

2) No equipment necessary

All you need is a place to exercise and that exercise can be as simple as running of varying intensities. And because no equipment is involved, you can do it anywhere making it a great exercise program to do while traveling.

3) Increases metabolism

Because doing HIIT stimulates a 450 percent increase in the release of the human growth hormone (HGH), you get an “afterburn” effect where your metabolism continues to burn more calories than it otherwise would – up to 16 to 24 hours longer. Coupled with a healthy diet, weight loss happens at a faster rate.

4) Preserves (or even builds) muscle

When mixed with strength training, HIIT burns through fat like butter, but unlike just cardio, it doesn’t reduce muscle mass. Preserving muscle is important as we age, because it is muscle that supports our skeletal structure and reduces our risk of suffering a debilitating fall.

5) It’s challenging – unlike anything you have done before

Because HIIT workouts are short, usually 15 minutes or less, you are working at a high intensity most of the time. And they are not boring like most steady-state cardio programs. From running, to circuit training, to strength training, to even working out in a pool, the routines are as varied as the changes in intensity.

If you are still stuck in the steady-state cardio routine, get into the 21st century by adding HIIT to your training program. Not only will it give new life to your training, but can help you get more fit than you would get otherwise without HIIT.

How to Turn Your Run into a HIIT Workout

Running is a steady-state type of cardio and although it does have a place in your fitness workout routine, it shouldn’t be the only type of fitness training you do. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) puts new life into that boring constant 3 mph run. Instead, you’ll go all out for a brief period of time before bringing it back down again to a steady-state speed. By doing so, you’ll not only burn fat, but also improve your speed. This can be critical if you are training for a long race, such as a half or full marathon.

So what does a HIIT workout look like? Here are some sample training routines.

Lap Running

If you have a measured running track nearby that you can use, try warming up for a lap with a slow steady jog. Then continue to jog the straight stretches and sprint the turns. If that is too difficult in the beginning, walk the straight stretches and sprint the turns, After completing four laps, walk an entire lap as a cool down.

Straight Line Running

If you have a favorite route you have been using to train, you still can use it, but in a different way. Instead of a straight run, use trees, signs or anything else along the way as markers. When you reach marker A, start sprinting until you reach marker B. Walk or jog to marker C and start sprinting again. Or use your fitness watch or tracker and either go by time or number of steps to designate when you should sprint or walk/jog.

In inclement weather, take your HIIT training indoors where you can run on a treadmill. Not only can you change the speed of the track, but also change the incline.

Pool Running

If it gets too hot and humid to run, take your training into the pool. Swim a couple of laps to warm up. Then swim a fast lap each of the butterfly, breaststroke and backstroke, with a slow freestyle in between each fast lap. Do as many iterations of this sequence as you can. Not only will it work different muscles, but it will be easier on your joints, reduce the chance of getting overheated and possibly suffering a heat injury.

Heart Rate Running

If you are using your heart rate as a measure of effort, warm up for one minute at 50% maximum heart rate (MHR) (220 minus age). Now bump up the intensity by 10% each minute for four minutes. Once you have done your minute at 90% MHR, bring the intensity back down to 60% MHR for a minute. Complete this cycle four times. During the last minute of the fourth cycle, push all out. Then wrap it up with a two-minute cool down at 50% MHR.  This gives you a 20-minute HIIT workout with a warm-up and cool down on each end.

If you are getting bored with steady-state running, and want to add some spice and variety to your training routine, HIIT may be just what you are looking for.

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