HIIT workouts or High Intensity Interval Training is a type of exercise that has become very popular recently. You can get in a great, vigorous workout in a fairly short amount of time (it's great for those with a busy lifestyle). Most HIIT workouts alternate between short bouts of very high-intensity exercise with bouts of more moderate- or even low-intensity exercise. This increases your heart rate significantly and can lead to increased calorie burn (especially from fat), improved endurance, maintenance of lean muscle mass and increased metabolism. In fact, some studies have shown that your metabolism stays elevated long after you've completed your HIIT workout. Try incorporating HIIT workouts on the treadmill as part of your weekly exercise routine so you can experience some of the great benefits of these hard workouts.
Part One of Three:
Designing a HIIT Workout for the Treadmill
1Talk to your physician. Before starting any new exercise or exercise routine, it's a great idea to speak to your physician. HIIT workouts will require you to raise your heart rate very high, so you need to make sure this type of exercise is safe for you.
- Many HIIT workouts aim to push you into the "anaerobic zone." This is when you're heart rate is about 85% of its maximum rate. You need to discuss this particular aspect of your workout with your physician to make sure your heart and cardiovascular system are fit enough to sustain this level of activity.
- If you'll be completing your HIIT workouts on the treadmill, also talk to your physician about the condition of your feet, knees and hips as running, especially at higher intensities can be hard on your spine, hips, knees, ankles and feet.
- If you experience any chest pain, painful breathing or difficulty recovering after a HIIT workout, discontinue seek the advice of your medical practitioner or doctor.
2Assess your current fitness level. As mentioned, part of what makes a HIIT workout is that it incorporates high intensity intervals. Not everyone will be at a fitness level that they can incorporate most HIIT workout plans.
- To measure your fitness level, plan to take a brisk walk on the treadmill. You'll need to walk for 1 mile (1.6 kilometres) total. A brisk walk should be a moderate pace — not so uncomfortable you can't sustain it, but not easy enough that you can carry on a conversation without stopping to take a breath.
- Take your pulse before you start walking and right after you've completed your walk. Place two fingers on your carotid artery, on the side of your neck underneath your chin. Count the number of beats for 10 seconds and then multiply this number by six so you get the number of beats per minute (BPM).
- For an average healthy adult, your target heart rate zone is about 85–150 BPM. Your maximum heart rate (something you do not want to exceed) is found by the following equation: 220 minus your age. So if you are 22, your max heart rate is 220 - 22 = 198 BMP.
- If your heart rate after your walk is near the higher end of your target range or near your maximum, you may want to consider improving your aerobic fitness levels before pursuing a HIIT workout.
- If your heart rate is on the lower end of your target heart rate zone, you have enough aerobic fitness to do HIIT workouts.
3Get familiar with the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale. The RPE scale was designed to help you monitor different levels of difficulty or exertion when you're exercising. When you're performing a HIIT workout, you'll be alternating between different intensities and becoming familiar with the RPE scale can help you accurately perform interval training. The scale is rated as follows:
- 0 = No exertion – Lying down or sitting still.
- 1–2 = Very light intensity — Slow walking, easy to breathe, can easily carry on a conversation.
- 3–4 = Light to moderate intensity — Brisk walking, able to have a short conversation.
- 4–5 = Moderate to somewhat heavy intensity — Jogging, can speak a sentence.
- 6–8 = Very heavy intensity — Running or sprinting, can only speak a few words.
- 9–10 = Very, very heavy intensity — Something you cannot sustain for more than a few seconds, unable to talk.
4Understand the advantages of RPE. One of the great things about HIIT is that it can be tailored for any fitness level. Depending on your level of fitness, what is "high-intensity" for one person may be quite different for someone else. For example, an unfit individual will reach his 85% max zone very quickly, feel very uncomfortable at this level, and take a long time to recover, whereas a more fit individual will require more exertion to reach 85% max zone and will recover much faster. Understanding how you feel when you are exercising at 85% of your maximum is more important that the number on a heart rate monitor — indicators such as breathing or whether or not you can speak are more effective measures of exertion for many people.
- In addition, many who are new to working out are on medications to control high blood pressure or high cholesterol. These medications can keep the heart rate low, and so may interfere with readings from a monitor.
5Consider purchasing a heart rate monitor. Besides gauging your intensity by estimating or using the RPE, you might have better results if you use a heart rate monitor.
- There are a variety of heart rate monitors available (including the ones that are on many treadmills). You can have a watch or a band you wear around your chest. Most are fairly accurate and will help you more accurately perform a HIIT workout.
- Consider purchasing a heart rate monitor with a watch or one that syncs with your smartphone so you can watch the elevation or decline in your heart rate during a HIIT workout.
- When using a heart rate monitor, it's essential that you know your target heart rate zone and calculated maximum heart rate. You need to keep track of your heart rate during exercise and note where it falls in regards to these levels or ranges.
- During the "moderate intensity bouts" of a HIIT workout, you should fall on the lower end of your target heart zone. When you're doing the "higher intensity bouts" you should be at the high end of your target heart rate zone.
Part Two of Three:
Using the Treadmill for HIIT Workouts
1Do a HIIT workout with sprints. One very common type of HIIT workout performed on a treadmill is with sprints. You alternate between a jog and a sprint to get your heart rate elevated and help burn calories.
- Start all HIIT workouts with a warm-up. Warm-ups should be the same exercise you plan on doing, but at a low intensity. A fast or brisk walk for three to five minutes prior to your HIIT workout will suffice.
- Increase the intensity by increasing your speed to a comfortable jog. Incline should remain at zero. You should aim for moderate-intensity. This is about a five out of 10 on the perceived exertion scale. Jog at this pace for two minutes.
- Increase your speed to the point where you're running very fast or sprinting. You should aim for a seven or eight on the perceived exertion scale. Sprint for 1 minute.
- Reduce your speed back down to a moderate jog (do not reduce your speed lower than where you started with your initial jog). Jog for two minutes.
- Continue alternating between a two minute jog and a one minute sprint for seven cycles. This ends up being a 21 minute HIIT workout.
- End your workout with a five minute brisk walk as your cool down.
2Include HIIT workouts with a high incline. In addition to the combination of jogging and sprinting, you can also do HIIT workouts that incorporate higher inclines. This type of workout will recruit 9% more of your leg muscles and helps burn more calories.
- Start your incline HIIT workout with a warm-up. Briskly walk on the treadmill with the incline set to 2.0. Walk at this pace for three to five minutes or until your muscles are warmed.
- Increase the speed so you're doing a moderate jog in addition to increasing the incline to 3.0. Again, aim for a five out 10 on the perceived exertion scale. Jog for two minutes at this pace.
- Increase the incline to 5.0–6.0 as you're increasing your speed to a fast jog. Sprinting on a high incline can cause poor posture and form and is typically not recommended. Jog fast at this increased incline for one minute.
- Reduce the incline back to 3.0 and reduce your speed to a moderate jog and continue for another two minutes.
- Repeat this cycle seven times for a 21 minute workout.
- As before, cool down with a brisk walk at a 0.0 incline for at least three to five minutes.
3Try a lower intensity HIIT workout. True high-intensity interval training is not designed for everyone; however, if you still want to see some of the benefits of interval training, do a lower intensity interval workout instead.
- Always start with a warm-up — even if you're planning on doing something of a lower intensity. Walk at a comfortable pace for three to five minutes.
- Increase the pace of your walk until you're walking briskly and breathing a little heavier. Aim for a four on the perceived exertion scale. Continue walking briskly for two minutes.
- Increase the incline on the treadmill to 2.0. Continue walking briskly at the increased incline for 30 seconds.
- Decrease the incline back to zero but keep up with your same walking pace. Continue walking for two minutes.
- Repeat this cycle eight times for a 20 minute workout or six times for a 15 minute workout.
- End with a cool down of a slow walk on a incline of zero.
Part Three of Three:
Including HIIT Workouts in Your Weekly Exercise Routine
1Only do one to two days of HIIT. There are so many great benefits to HIIT that you might think you can skip your daily sustained moderate aerobic exercises for only HIIT workouts. But you might want to only do about one or two HIIT workouts weekly.
- Sustained cardio workouts are aerobic exercises that keep your heart rate at a relatively steady level. Unlike HIIT workouts where your heart rate bounces between medium to high levels.
- Although HIIT does offer a lot of great benefits, it can leave your body fatigued and over worked — especially if you're doing these types of exercises on a daily basis.
- Sustained cardio comes with its own, different list of benefits including: improved endurance, better and quicker muscle recovery, maintenance of lean muscle mass and a higher likelihood you'll stick with it long-term.
2Include other low- to moderate-intensity cardio exercises. If you are doing one or two days of HIIT workouts during the week, you'll need to find other types of aerobic exercises to do during the week to meet the minimum recommended amount of exercise.
- Most health professionals will recommend doing about 150 minutes or about 2 1/2 hours of moderate aerobic activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of the two. Many HIIT workouts are only 20–30 minutes so you will likely need to do other forms of cardio to make up the difference.
- Focus on low- or moderate-intensity physical activity aerobic exercises. These can help your body recover more efficiently during the week.
- Try the following types of exercises to meet your 150 minute weekly goal: walking or jogging, using the elliptical, cycling or biking, hiking, dancing or swimming.
3Do two days of strength training. In addition to HIIT and other types of aerobic activity, it's important to include adequate amounts of strength training. It will offer different benefits compared to cardio exercises.
- Strength training helps you to build and maintain lean muscle mass and helps to support your metabolism. In addition, strength training helps prevent osteoporosis by supporting your bone density.
- Most health professionals recommend doing about one to two days of strength training each week. Make sure to work each major muscle group and workout for about 20 minutes.
- Strength training to maintain bone density must be done twice a week to have a significant effect.
- If your HIIT workouts are not done on the treadmill and include some strength training exercises (like lunges, squats or push-ups), this can count towards your cardio, HIIT and strength training time.
4Include an adequate amount of rest days. By the nature of the type of workout, HIIT exercises need to be followed by adequate amounts of rest. Any higher intensity exercises taxes your muscles, joints and overall body more and you need to spend adequate time in recovery.
- Rest days are important to your workout routine, the health of your body and your overall performance. It's during rest that your muscles gain strength and size.
- If you completed a treadmill HIIT workout and a strength training exercise on Monday, then Tuesday would be a great time for a rest day.
- You may only need one or two rest days each week. This will depend on how many HIIT workouts you do or how much you're exercising overall.
- Your rest days shouldn't be totally inactive. You can try doing more restorative exercises like yoga, stretching exercises or just light walking.
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