I am a reasonably fit individual. I engage in strength training on four to five occasions every week and use my bicycle as my primary mode of transportation. On days when I take a break from my usual routine, I make sure to go on a lengthy walk or attend a yoga class. One activity that is not a part of my weekly workout regimen is high-intensity interval training (also known as HIIT), which essentially involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by brief periods of active recovery, as explained by the American Council on Exercise.
The advantages of HIIT are widely recognized, ranging from a greater ability to burn fat compared to regular cardio exercises to an acceleration of the metabolism, not to mention the fact that the time commitment is significantly shorter compared to steady state cardio, which typically requires 30 to 60 minutes.
In the past, I was a fervent enthusiast of HIIT; however, since I stopped incorporating it into my routine, I have discovered a newfound enjoyment in my workouts. (I will elaborate on this later!)
Despite feeling relatively fit, I began to question whether HIIT was essential for maintaining fitness. After all, HIIT has been hailed as one of the top fitness trends for multiple years and is constantly being praised by fitness experts. But is it truly obligatory? Here’s what the experts have to say.
Why Some Individuals Dislike HIIT
If you happen to be someone who has a strong aversion to HIIT, you may be wondering if your feelings toward interval workouts are normal. (Just FYI: They absolutely are!)
For me, not being fond of HIIT is connected to a few different factors. Firstly, I detest that post-HIIT sensation of being completely drenched in sweat and struggling to catch my breath. I much prefer the gradual, enduring burn I experience during a jog, bike ride, or weightlifting session. Secondly, HIIT tends to intensify my appetite, making it significantly more difficult to stay on track with my nutritional goals. This is apparently due to the afterburn effect, also known as increased excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, induced by HIIT. While this effect is seen as advantageous, it can also make you extremely hungry.
Another reason why people often dislike HIIT is because they associate it with highly aggressive workout movements such as burpees, box jumps, and sprints.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. “You can design your own HIIT workout using a majority of your preferred bodyweight exercises; it’s simply a matter of arranging them and adjusting the tempo at which you perform them,” explains Charlee Atkins, CSCS, the founder of Le Sweat. “I believe we are afraid of the ‘burn’ experienced during HIIT, but it is intended to include short rest periods, albeit brief. These periods allow your body to rejuvenate and prepare for the next movement.
Thus, is HIIT necessary to be in good shape? Concise response: No. Elaborate response: Depending on your objectives, it could simplify your life *a great deal*.
“High-intensity interval training is not an obligatory component of a comprehensive exercise program,” asserts Meaghan Massenat, CSCS, proprietor of Fitness by Design. You do need to engage in *some* form of cardiovascular activity to maintain a healthy heart, but it does not have to be HIIT. (By the way, you are not obliged to engage in cardio to lose weight-but there is a catch.)
So, when should HIIT be a consideration? “While it is not mandatory to do HIIT to be fit, you should definitely contemplate incorporating it into your workout routine if you seek to shed pounds, spend less time exercising, or compete in an event that necessitates operating at a higher intensity than you are accustomed to,” advises Massenat.
Having said that, if you do not derive pleasure from conducting HIIT workouts, there is little rationale for obligating yourself. Despite its popularity and advantages, if an individual cannot maintain consistency with HIIT, then it may not be a practical option for long-term success, remarks Ben Brown, CSCS, founder of BSL Nutrition. “The truth is that the most effective form of exercise is the one that someone genuinely enjoys performing. Period.”
What to Do If You Dislike HIIT
Adhere to your preferred workout. “If you desire an excellent workout but harbor reservations about HIIT, then concentrate on monitoring your heart rate,” recommends Atkins. “The objective of HIIT is to elevate the heart rate and maintain it at that level. If you practice yoga, attempt incorporating a few push-ups before transitioning into each chaturanga. If you cycle, endeavor to exert additional force against resistance for a few extra seconds during your hill climbs, or if you run, inject a few sprints when you notice your heart rate dropping, or while running on a straight path.”
If you engage in weightlifting, Massenat proposes varying the pace of your routine to experience an elevated heart rate or infuse rapid cardiovascular exercises between sets. (By the way, here’s how to utilize heart rate zones to optimize exercise benefits.)
Give a class a try. “If the intensity and exertion of HIIT intimidate you, then one of the most advantageous steps you can take is to join a group training session focused on HIIT,” remarks Massenat. “The camaraderie fostered within that group will serve as motivation to persevere until the workout concludes, and ultimately, you will feel invigorated, accomplished, and perhaps even have fun!”
Concentrate on getting fit through alternative means. “You can either fully immerse yourself in aerobic exercises by joining a running club or participating in a step class, or dive into genuine strength training by seeking the guidance of a strength coach,” notes Atkins.
If neither pique your interest, give a superb yoga sequence a shot.