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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The struggle is real: getting out the door to our first workout

I swear, it takes me 10 years to get out the door to do anything these days. And even if I budget myself tons of extra time, I’m always late.

So getting out the door with twins to our first Baby & Me class at 3rd Degree Training was no different. After a fairly good night with the babies and Silas, who was fighting a cold and fever, I managed to eat a healthy breakfast of eggs, toast with peanut butter, an orange and a coffee. I got the babies fed, dressed and threw on some gym clothes. The class starts at 10:30 and at 10 a.m. I thought I would start assembling the diaper bag, getting on snowsuits and loading into car seats, a task that always seems to take forever. My husband got the van out of the garage for me.

But that’s when Callum started making his “I’m hungry” sound. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, because they had both slept so well that night. I quickly fed both babies again (which wasn’t easy since I was already in my tight gym clothes), and got them packed away and out the door. They were crying. I was already out of breath. “I don’t know how you’re going to do this,” Mark said.

I arrived at the gym just as the workout had begun. Of course, I thought, I’m always the late one. I was frustrated with myself for being that person, again. I grumbled as I laid the babies on a blanket with some toys, slid on my running shoes and joined in.

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We made it

We did squats, lunges, sprinted on the spot, did push-ups (modified for me), jumping jacks (modified again, because… childbirth), supermans, and even burpees. The exercises were done 2-3 at a time for various lengths of time (ie 10-20 seconds) for a few sets. The workout just flew by! And the babies loved it, watching all the activity from their vantage point. My heart was racing, my face was red, and I was no longer grumpy. It was a mental and physical pick-me-up, just what any mom needs.

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Sure, why not another squat.

The great thing about this program is there are multiple class times every day open to members. The 10:30 a.m. Baby & Me class on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays works great for us, and I hope to bring Silas along at some point too. I’m hoping to try a 6 a.m. workout another day, because I have always aspired to be more of a morning person and love the idea of sneaking out when everyone is still sleeping (ideally!).

It feels so great to be making my health and fitness a priority again. If I see visual results from the healthier eating and exercise, it will only be a bonus because I already feel so good. I love the feeling of restful sleep after working out, and waking up with sore muscles. I am always inspired to eat better when I am exercising, and while the thought of eating “clean” for eight weeks is daunting, I know I can do it with some accountability. Keep following along as I share more about my nutrition plan and how I’m actually finding it hard to eat so… much… protein!