How to do HIIT in the pool and at the gym

October 16 2015

Faya is a Swedish personal trainer who explains the ins and outs of workouts and nutrition over at Fitness On Toast.

To my mind, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a champion method for so many reasons:

  • it’s ultra time-efficient,
  • it toasts calories both during and after the session,
  • it maintains muscle while targeting stubborn fat,
  • and it stimulates the production of human growth hormone (HGH), which helps calorie-burn even further, in a self-sustaining cycle!

Furthermore, it can be done pretty much anywhere, and applied to almost any exercise – skipping, sprinting, rowing, cross trainer, horse riding and so forth.

How does HIIT work?

 Swimming Pool

The idea is to train at different levels in one session: bursts of intense activity to help you enter the dreaded anaerobic zone, followed by relatively calm ‘recovery’ motion.

When in the anaerobic zone, you’re keeping the heart rate elevated throughout. The beauty is that you determine what level is appropriate for you; for some it’ll be power-walking (low intensity) vs jogging (high intensity).  For others, jogging (low intensity) vs. running (high intensity).

In other words, whatever your level of fitness, your body can benefit from the technique.

In the pool

If you’re swimming, a simple way to achieve this is to go all-out on one lap, and have the following one be your recovery lap. Keep doing this for 15-20 minutes. If you need more of a challenge, then you can always up the number of lengths. So instead of doing one intense lap, go for two followed by one recovery length.

In the gym

The same technique could be applied to any form of exercise – if you find you can skip easily, try bringing your knees higher up towards your chest as this is far harder and really works your abs also. Do this for 1 minute or 3, or whatever is an appropriate challenge for you, and recover for 30 seconds or more.

Less recovery time and longer anaerobic time will be far more challenging. The aim is to complete at least 15 minutes and, importantly, you’re not looking to do a pure 15 minutes of sprinting. Your aim is to alternate portions of burst-and-recovery activity.

How HIIT helps stamina

 Rowing Machine

The other advantage is that, while perhaps you’re not yet able to run at pace for 15 minutes, by alternating between a jog and a sprint you’ll still be running (in total) for longer than your fitness level would otherwise permit.

As that stamina improves, you’ll rapidly be able to see yourself running the full 15 without any problems. By then perhaps you’ll be alternating between a run and a sprint. You really notice your real-world progress with HIIT, in my experience!

Skipping

Be smart with your training

Don’t neglect your warm-up and cooldown to ease your body in and out of training activity.

And always listen to your body; if you’re in pain and/or feel dizzy, stop what you’re doing and seek professional assistance. I’d always stretch properly before and after to avoid injury.

Combining your training alongside nutritious, delicious foods is the other key step to maximising on your HIIT goals!