National Heart Week: HIIT your targets

February 04 2015

With Valentine’s Day looming, it’s safe to say that February can be a heartbreaking month for many. However, this romantic occasion is not the only thing that will draw our attention to hearts this month.

Heart disease is one of the largest causes of death in the UK. It is estimated that 2.3 million people suffer from cardiovascular disease and it causes 73,000 thousand deaths a year. While the condition generally affects more men than women, the risk of developing the condition is the same in both sexes, so everyone should be aware of the risks.

As part of National Heart Month, we want to raise awareness of heart disease and promote a nation of healthy cardiovascular systems by encouraging people to participate in cardio exercise.

How can cardio benefit us?

Everyone knows that cardiovascular activity is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but very few of us understand why. Cardio exercise has many more benefits than simply helping you to burn fat and lose weight. It is essential for a good respiratory system, regular aerobic exercise improves the strength of your heart so it doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood around your body and it also lowers your blood pressure.

In the first of our two-part series, we will run you through a step-by-step guide for high intensity interval training (HIIT) for those who have already built up a solid foundation of aerobic activity. If you have been completing 20-60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise at least three times a week, you should be in a good physical condition to incorporate HIIT training into your cardio workouts.

What are HIIT workouts?

HIIT workouts typically involve repeated bouts of high intensity aerobic exercise, followed by periods of recovery time. Inspired by athletics trainers who push their athletes to reach great speeds in short periods of time, the training method has trickled down into the fitness community due to its vast benefits.

The intense periods are performed at 80-90% of an individual’s estimated maximum heart rate and effort, so in other words when you feel like you’re training really hard. While the recovery periods, which generally last longer than the intense bouts, are performed at 40-50% of the maximum heart rate and should feel relatively easy and comfortable to complete.

HIIT workouts have grown increasingly popular as they burn more calories and strengthen muscles than your usual steady paced workouts, but in shorter amounts of time. Your body will continue to burn calories up to two hours after a workout, as it will expel energy trying to get back to pre-workout levels. According to the American College of Sports Medicine this is known as the excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Due to the more vigorous nature of a HIIT workout, the EPOC will burn a greater amount of calories and repair more muscles post workout. By pushing your heart rate higher during intense periods of exercise, you will also improve your cardiovascular system and strengthen your heart.

Your own HIIT workout

Workout 1:

For this workout, we are going to use a treadmill and adopt the “Sprint interval training method” where the exerciser does 1 minute of sprinting or full effort, followed by 4-5 minutes of recovery time.

The great thing about HIIT is that you can develop it using any machine. Whether it is the treadmill, the elliptical, the bike or the rowing machine, the same rules apply.

Warm up - 5 minutes

1 x minute full intensity sprint
4 x minutes recovery jog
1 x minute full intensity sprint
4 x minutes recovery jog
2 x minute full intensity sprint
5 x minute recovery jog
1 x minute full intensity jog
2 x minute recovery jog

Cool down - 5 minutes

Workout 2:

Round 1:

Jumping Jacks
Mountain climbers
Jump squats

Rest 1 minute

Round 2:


Rest 1 minute

Round 3:

Jack Knives

10 reps of each first time round, then 15, then increase to 20.

Non-stop, no rests in between!

How often can you do HIIT workouts?

As HIIT workouts are more exhaustive than normal steady-paced workouts, it takes a longer time to recover from them. To start with, implement one HIIT workout into your regime a week and continue with your usual workouts.

After a number of weeks, your recovery time should reduce and you can start to add an extra HIIT workout into your routine. However, you must spread them out throughout the week to aid recovery time.

If you want your own bespoke HIIT plan then book a free consultation with one of our personal trainers today. They can monitor your fitness to create a bespoke program specifically tailored to your goals.