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There are many different types of HIIT to choose from and it's important to customise your routines to what your body is capable of and to what you enjoy.
For example, if you enjoy running, you could sprint intensely for a minute and then walk for 30 seconds before breaking into a sprint again; repeat this until you've completed 15-20 minutes. Alternatively, you could plan a circuit based around bodyweight exercises, using 4-5 moves such as push-ups, squats, burpees, skater hops and tricep dips – whatever suits your fitness levels and capabilities. You could perform each move for 20-30 seconds (or longer depending on the intensity) then take a 10-20 second break between each move (or gently jog on the spot) and then repeat the circuit 3-4 times. You could also incorporate equipment such as kettlebells and dumbbells into your routines if you have them.
As you get fitter, you can progress to more advanced moves, increase the time of your active phases and decrease your recovery periods. If you're still unsure, there is plenty of information available online along with good examples of HIIT routines. You could also take things further by planning a bootcamp holiday where you’ll have access to experienced trainers with both private and group HIIT sessions that will enable you to finesse your form.
For all the benefits of including HIIT in your fitness regime, it's also important to be aware that two to three sessions per week is sufficient. If your aim is to work out four times a week, two HIIT sessions plus two resistance training or lighter endurance sessions would be a good balance, with the other days as rest days. If you go too hard on the HIIT you risk sabotaging your fitness goals; it's so important to incorporate rest days so that your muscles can repair and strengthen, plus to enable your lactate threshold to increase (the maximum intensity you can train at before lactic acid kicks in). Gentle, low intensity movement such as walking or swimming is really beneficial on your rest days to alleviate DOMS and help you stay active. As with any exercise, eat a balanced diet to fuel the intensity of your workouts and make sure you stay well hydrated.
HIIT is a great addition to your workout regime and the summer months are the perfect time to get started. It's a concept that can be applied to almost any form of exercise and there's no excuse when you're short on time. You can target different muscle groups within your routine for a great full-body workout. If using weights, make sure they're going to be sustainable for the duration of your workout to maintain proper form throughout. Once you've gained the confidence, mix it up each session to challenge your body and keep it interesting - think new moves or hill sprints. You won't look back!
Eleanor is a Level 3-qualified personal trainer who works with clients of all ages and levels of fitness. Her tailored programmes incorporate a mixture of low/high intensity interval training plus resistance work and she is qualified to advise on nutrition to compliment this. She is also a single mum to a 5-year-old boy so recognises the challenges of balancing a busy schedule with a healthy lifestyle.
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