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:Β 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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Trying to avoid the winter blahs

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It’s been a very long time since I have taken a moment for a little self-reflection. While this blog evolved over time to share my running journey β€” especially last year’s marathon β€” I have also used it more recently to share some of my writing and stories about others. But for those wondering what the heck April has been up to (is she even still running?), here it is.

Yes! Still running, just not as much, and for the first time in a long time, without any immediate goals. It’s actually quite liberating!

Instead of focusing on mileage or training plans, I have been trying to mix up my exercise with more cross training, yoga and strength training. Trying to become a less injury-prone runner for when I sign up for that next big race. While I didn’t suffer any injuries during the previous two half-marathons, my IT band was under duress during the marathon, and I certainly don’t want to go through that again.

I don’t think I ever shared my New Year’s goals on this blog, but they were to do yoga once a week, do strength 1-2x a week and read one book a month. So far I am more or less on track. Even if I don’t get to yoga or a strength class, YouTube to the rescue.

Our membership at the Saint John Y has certainly helped. It’s also been a blessing to keep Silas occupied (in child-minding) while I exercise after work. So far we have only attempted to do that one day a week, but it’s been awesome to get back into spinning!! I also try to go to Group Power (like Body Pump at Goodlife) on Saturday mornings, and on Sunday, Silas and I go to the early years open swim. It’s a beautiful facility and so perfect for this point in our lives.

As far as running, my goal has been to aim for three runs a week. At first I was hoping for two short and one long, but realistically, they’ve all been short, “easy” runs. On the treadmill. I feel as though that, combined with the other stuff we’re doing is pretty reasonable. This week Silas and I even got out for a stroller run. Holy, it was tough! I’ve been used to #netflixandtreadmill!

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At this point my biggest challenge has been to stay motivated to eat healthily. Craving carbs and sugar, hard. Even fast food (ugh, I know). I always joke that I hope all my running and exercise cancel out my bad eating habits, but I know that only goes so far.

So as the mountains of snow slowly melt outside, I hope to stock my fridge with healthy snacks and get inspired with fresh, family-friendly recipes to carry us into the spring. No more blizzards, please.

Happy trails, everyone. Run on!