What is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)?

For the past couple of weeks , I have been focusing solely on High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) at 3rd Degree Training to get myself back in shape. This is a very popular form of exercise these days, but what is it exactly and how is it effective? Is it helpful for runners? I’ve asked Kevin McEachern, a personal trainer and the owner of the Saint John studio, to explain.

Q: What is high intensity interval training?

A: HIIT is a training technique which alternates moderate-to-high intensity exercise with rest and active rest periods.

Q: Why is it beneficial?

A: There are a number of reasons, but in general, HIIT works because it a) allows more work to be done in less time (i.e. more energy burned DURING workouts) and b) increases metabolism to a far greater extent than low-intensity exercise (i.e. more energy burned for up to 48 hours AFTER a workout).

Q: What kind of exercises does it entail?

A: In theory, HIIT can include virtually any body movements (provided you are working hard enough to achieve your anaerobic threshold). In other words, if you are out of breath – or close to it – between rest periods of your workout, you’re doing HIIT.

Q: How do repetitions and breaks help burn calories and build muscle?

A: A well-designed HIIT program will enable you to burn as many calories as possible during the workout, and boost your metabolism dramatically – provided you hit the gym at least 3-4 times per week. Although HIIT can technically be done with strictly cardio movements, we feel that a more holistic approach including muscle-building moves (such as squats and pushups) is the best approach for long-term functional fitness.

Q: How is this different from the workout you would get by going for a run?

A: Firstly, running may not necessarily be intense enough to reach your anaerobic threshold (unless it is a speed interval or tempo session). In addition, running is a repetitive motion targeting relatively few muscle groups. It tends to build a highly specialized fitness that is good for running, but somewhat less useful in everyday life. A good HIIT program provides a more dynamic, full body workout that builds overall strength, stability and balance useful in any number of scenarios.

Q: Do you need to have experience at a gym to take part?

A: Absolutely not! Functional fitness by definition includes movements the body is designed to do. Our trainers and Motivators are there with you every step of the way teaching you proper form and suggesting modifications. The fact that our training uses body weight simplifies things and each participant works at his/her own capability; no more, no less.

Q: How many calories would someone burn in a typical workout?

A: Approximately 400-500 for most people in a 30-40 minute session.

Q: For someone like me hoping to get back into distance running, how could this help?

A: Strengthening the hips, glutes and core is important for everyday mobility as well as long-term sport-specific injury prevention.


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April C

Writer, editor and mom in Saint John, NB.

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