How To Do HIIT For Beginners

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How To Do HIIT For Beginners
How To Do HIIT For Beginners

If you lead a busy lifestyle and don’t have much time for exercise, high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a workout style you might want to consider.

HIIT workouts are a fast and effective way to increase your fitness. You’ll push your body hard for a short time, rest and repeat for a number of rounds — then you’re done! 

If you’ve never tried high-intensity interval training, here’s a guide to help you to have a successful first HIIT workout. 

How to start HIIT

Anyone can benefit from HIIT and you don’t have to be an athlete to do it. If you are new to HIIT, it’s important to seek guidance from fitness or health professionals to make sure the program you choose is suitable for your level of fitness. 

One way you can work towards incorporating HIIT workouts into your schedule is to start with some steady-state cardio and strength work. Do this for four to eight weeks first, to build your baseline fitness, and once you’re used to training regularly, you may feel more confident to give HIIT a go!

Be prepared to push yourself, but know that your effort only needs to be short! As you get fitter and stronger you should find that you can sustain your high-intensity effort for longer.

How often should you do HIIT?

The number of HIIT workouts you do each week will depend on your other training. 

According to the American College of Sports Medicine as a beginner, you can “start with one HIIT workout a week, with your other workouts being steady-state workouts.” As you feel ready, you can add a second HIIT workout into your week, ensuring you spread them out to allow enough time for recovery. Always remember to listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself too much, especially when you are trying something new.

For those doing strength training or other forms of exercise throughout the week, you can try challenging yourself by switching a low-intensity cardio workout for a HIIT workout. 

If you’re using one of the programs in the Sweat app, you can choose a high-intensity cardio session. There’s a timer for your work-rest intervals to help you stay on track.

How Long Is A HIIT Workout

How long is a HIIT workout?

A HIIT workout can range from as little as four minutes to 30 minutes. As a beginner, a good place to start is with 10-15 minutes of HIIT, and you can increase the number of intervals for a longer workout as your fitness improves. 

If you are trying HIIT for the first time, slowly build your work to recovery ratio — you might start with 15 seconds of work to 45 seconds of recovery and over a number of weeks work towards 45 seconds of work to 15 seconds of recovery.

For example, a Tabata workout has a structure of 20 seconds of all-out effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest. You then repeat this sequence eight times over — for a workout round of just four minutes! 

During these short bouts of work, you should aim to reach an RPE of 8. This is how hard an exercise feels on a scale of 1-10, which, as it sounds, can be quite challenging. 

Is high-intensity training high-impact?

A HIIT session doesn’t have to be high-impact. A common misconception is that HIIT always incorporates plyometric exercises like burpees and skipping, but you can do HIIT sprints using an elliptical machine or laps in a swimming pool. 

Low impact HIIT utilises exercises that don’t put a strain on your tendons and joints making it accessible for beginners — it’s about how hard you work, not how hard you hit the ground!

What to expect during your first HIIT workout

During your first HIIT workout, aim to give it your maximum effort for the first couple of intervals, or if this feels too much, start with 70% effort until you feel comfortable with each movement, then ramp it up during the next session.

Don’t feel discouraged if you can’t keep going at maximum effort — it can take time to build up your fitness and strength. Be patient and keep practising, and over time you’ll be able to complete more intervals at your best effort. 

You can connect with the Sweat Community if you need support or want to share how you are going on your journey. 

Should you eat before a HIIT workout?

A pre-workout meal three or four hours before your workout, or a light snack like a banana 30 minutes before your workout, can provide the energy you need to get the most out of your first HIIT session. Allowing time between your meal and your workout will also help to ensure you won’t feel sick during your session.

You should follow your workout with a high-energy snack or a balanced meal that incorporates both carbohydrates and protein to help replace the energy burned during your workout and support muscle recovery.

If you want to try fasted cardio, starting with a lower-intensity workout can help you to assess how your body responds to fasted workouts. It’s important to keep in mind that high-intensity training may make you feel light-headed if you haven’t fueled your body properly. 

If you enjoy morning workouts, make sure to have a balanced meal the night before, and follow your workout with a nutritious breakfast.

How To Nail Your First HIIT Workout

How to nail your first HIIT workout

Now that you know what to expect, here are some actionable tips to get the most out of your first HIIT workout.

Practise correct form

Make sure you are familiar with the correct form for each exercise during your HIIT workout and modify them if you need to. 

If you’re completing any of the Sweat programs, there are exercise descriptions and video demonstrations available, as well as options to swap the exercises to change the intensity. 

Wear the right shoes

The workout shoes you wear when lifting weights might not be ideal for HIIT, so it’s best to get fitted correctly. This will ensure you provide your feet and the rest of your body with adequate support during your workout.

Do a proper warm-up

Warming up thoroughly before starting any workout can reduce the risk of injury and ensure your body is ready for the hard work you are about to do!

Use lighter weights

If your HIIT workout utilises free weights, reduce the weight you might normally lift during a slower, strength workout so you can complete more reps with proper form.

Exercise at the correct intensity

You’ll get maximum benefits when you put in maximum effort during HIIT. By keeping the work intervals short, you can reach a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 8-9 for each interval.

According to Mayo Clinic in the US, there are a few ways you can determine whether you’re exercising hard enough, including monitoring your heart rate. The way you breathe during your workouts can also indicate whether you’re pushing hard enough. 

Allow time for recovery

As with any form of exercise, HIIT may lead to injuries if you don’t take precautionary steps before, during and after your workout to ensure you take care of your body. 

It’s essential to allow enough time for recovery between your HIIT sessions. As a general rule, you should allow 24-48 hours between high-intensity workouts, depending on their duration.

Use HIIT to reach your fitness goals

When you don’t have time for a long workout, 10 minutes of HIIT can elevate your heart rate and help you maintain your fitness momentum! 

HIIT is a great option if you are pushed for time or can’t get to the gym and you don’t even need any equipment to do it. But if HIIT doesn’t appeal to you, remember that you can reach your fitness goals with other training styles — the best form of exercise is one you enjoy. 

Now that you have an idea of how to get started with high-intensity interval training, what are you waiting for? Plan your first HIIT workout now!

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.

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