HIIT for Beginners: 6 Steps to getting started (and why you should try it)
High-intensity interval training – HIIT for short – is a workout strategy that focuses on high-intensity exercises with short rest periods to maximise calorie burn and cardiorespiratory fitness. HIIT is an exercise program designed to torch fat, increase anaerobic and aerobic capacity, and fit a full workout session into the smallest window possible.
In simple English, HIIT is an approach to cardio-based workouts that take a shorter amount of time, but are a lot more intense. Most people tend to get terrified by the idea of having to do a workout with less resting time, but there’s a number of reasons why HIIT is worth trying. First, HIIT can be modified for pretty much every fitness and ability level, with or without equipment. Second, HIIT comes with the enormous advantages of reducing your workout time dramatically. Third, HIIT has been proven to be massively effective not just at helping us shape up, but also for neuroplasticity.
What is neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity is a phenomenon that refers to the brain’s ability to adapt to change by altering its functional and structural properties. When these changes occur, great things tend to happen, like learning and acquiring new skills.
Here are the steps to getting started with HIIT
1. Recognise that HIIT and HIIRT are different
HIIT is a strategy to improve your cardio-based workouts, it DOES NOT replace weight-based resistance training. There’s a version of HIT (high intensity training) that tackles resistance based training called HIIRT – High-Intensity Interval Resistance Training. Like HIIT, HIIRT involves a burst of strenuous exercise, followed by a period of rest; however, HIIRT involves not just exercises, like running or cycling, but also heavy resistance exercises designed to add strength training to the cardio routine.
For this article, we’re going to focus on cardio-based HIIT.
2. Choose a workout
There’s a large number of HIIT workouts available online, so you can rest assured that you’ll find something that caters to your level and preference. We suggest using google or youtube to search for an HIIT workout. Here are some of our favourites:
- Fat Burning HIIT Cardio and Abs Workout | Alex Savva
- 15 Minute Fat Burning HIIT Workout | No Equipment | The Body Coach
- 15 MIN FULL BODY HIIT WORKOUT – burn lots of calories / No Equipment I Pamela Reif
- Take Five by Nicola Radziszewski
- Follow Along HIIT Workout For Fat Loss: Bodyweight & Kettlebells – Thomas DeLauer
- Replace Treadmill With This 10 Min HIIT/CARDIO Workout
3. Start small
Since HIIT is geared toward a more intense workout, pacing yourself is critical — especially if you don’t want to burn out or increase your risk of injury. If you haven’t been physical active for a while, be careful to ease into this slowly.
4. Find the right schedule
Aim for one or two days each week for a total of 15 minutes each session. As your body adapts, you can slowly increase the total time of your workout to 30 minutes. If you still want a challenge, then you can add one more day of HIIT to your overall fitness plan.
5. Be aware of muscle soreness
Chances are you’re going to experience delayed onset muscle soreness when you begin doing HIIT. The best thing to do is continue doing small, short workouts. In the days following your muscle soreness, these recovery workouts may help prevent or reduce soreness:
- stretch out sore muscles
- do light resistance exercises, such as core strengthening workouts
- do low-intensity cardio, such as walking or swimming
You can also focus on muscle groups that you didn’t work on previously.
Fuel your body
Making sure your body is properly fueled before a workout is essential, especially for a beginner. To maximize energy, aim to eat a light meal one to two hours pre-exercise consisting of healthy fats and complex carbs. Then, opt for a post-workout snack or meal within an hour of finishing your session.
We’ve talked about the importance of nutrition before in our article on how to approach nutrition in order to maximise your workout gains, give it a read here.