For many of us, Monday to Friday is a carefully scheduled, often hectically executed rotation between work and familial responsibilities. And let’s be honest: some of us are downright time-poor. Attempting to interject exercise into this routine chaos can seem completely impossible. After all, even if you are able to find 20 minutes here and there to hit the treadmill, is it really going to make a difference?
This was my thought process for a long time. I tried to incorporate exercise whenever I could, whether it be a bit of light yoga after dinner or a long run on the weekend. And you know what? That exercise did make a difference. It helped me fend off weight gain from being desk-bound and improved my overall well-being. Yoga and running are fantastic forms of exercise in their own right. But they didn’t really give me the results I was looking for.
I knew that weight training was the path to gaining muscle and changing body composition. Yet, I shied away from it for a long time because the few times I tried it, I really, really hated it. I didn’t really believe the sore muscles the next day were really making a difference, and so I could never sustain any kind of body conditioning exercise regime for long.
Then, in November of last year, I discovered HIIT. Since then, I’ve only lost five pounds, but I’m more confident in a swimsuit than I’ve been in years (or perhaps ever). For the first time in my life, I can do actual, legitimate push-ups. The changes I’ve seen in my strength, endurance, and confidence has converted me into a HIIT-er for life.
What is HIIT?
For those who are unfamiliar, HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. Putting it simply, it involves short periods of hard-effort exercise, punctuated by even shorter periods of rest. They typically consist of 6-8 different exercises done in succession without stopping. After a short break, you could then cycle through the same exercises to complete two to three circuits. The Scientific Seven-Minute Workout is one example of a HIIT session.
Now that you know what it is, here’s why HIIT might be the exercise strategy for you if you have limited time and resources to exercise:
Real results with minimal time required
When it comes to getting the best “bang for your buck,” you can’t beat HIIT. HIIT increases mitochondrion production, which, as we’ve learned before, are the powerhouses responsible for giving us energy and boosting metabolism. One HIIT session can create a calorie burn that lasts for hours after you’ve finished working out.
Short sessions are all it takes to start seeing results, which is a great boon to us time-poor, nine-to-five folk. For years, I was primarily a runner, and at times I ran a lot. One summer, I ran a minimum of seven km, five or six days a week. My runs would last anywhere from 40-60 minutes. And yes, I did lose pounds when I was doing that kind of mileage. But I never saw any change in my body shape or muscle definition.
Three weeks after starting HIIT training, I’d lost inches around my legs, arms, and waist. I started seeing more muscle definition. And all it took was 20 minutes, two to three times a week!
Next to no equipment needed
Many HIIT workouts require nothing more than your own body weight. And for many of us, especially those who have yet to start an exercise regimen, that’s more than enough! Some quality shoes (Asics are my favorite), and an exercise mat are all you really need. In a pinch, you can even get by without those. Many people actually prefer to work out in bare feet, though that isn’t recommended in many instances (especially if you are around heavy equipment). I’m far too klutzy to risk that myself — I’m pretty sure I’d bash my toe on a dumbbell in first ten seconds.
Speaking of dumbbells, they are helpful later on when you want to make the exercises more challenging, but easily substituted with objects around the house. (Think soup cans or a heavy book.)
Do HIIT anytime, anywhere
Because you don’t need much equipment or time to do the exercises, you can perform them at your convenience. You can get your squats on during your lunch break, or use the side of your tub at home to do triceps dips. There’s literally no excuse not to get your 20 minutes in! Sometimes, when I missed my morning workout, I got it done while making dinner. I’d throw the food in the oven and then start the walking lunges!
Easily accessible and suitable for all fitness levels
The seven-minute workout is just one example of the many free HIIT workouts available out there. There are many paid programs out there, too, which are great, and some people do very well with them. (I have!) That being said, with a little research online, you can easily put together your own HIIT program for free.
It’s important to start with exercises that aren’t too difficult, or you could risk injuring yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve overdone it with exercise. Whether it’s yoga, running, or circuit training, I tend to get a little overzealous and hurt myself. Learn from my mistakes; start slow and easy, and always warm up and cool down. The great thing is, beginners can modify virtually any HIIT workouts to make them easier. (For example, instead of attempting full push-ups, try them on your knees, or on an incline.)
Corrie Alexander is a content creator and customer service manager from Toronto, Ontario. Her climb up the corporate ladder cultivated her interest in the topic of career development, a passion rivaled only by her love of exercise and strong coffee. Visit her website, thefitcareerist.com, and follow her on Twitter here.
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