A reader wrote to ask what kind of workout would be best to help increase her stamina. She was already a regular exerciser, but wanted to take her workouts to the next level. My mind went immediately to High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT.
HIIT training improves cardiorespiratory fitness and revs up the body’s metabolism, leading to increased energy as well as a kind of euphoria that is one level above the normal post-workout glow that you get with moderate exercise.
Over time, it makes you a real tough cookie.
Important: HIIT training is not for beginners. Intervals are much higher intensity than other forms of exercise and should not be attempted by people with known cardiac or respiratory issues unless they are cleared by a doctor.
When using HIIT training, it’s critical to listen to your body. The RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) Scale is a great tool to monitor your efforts while going through the intervals.
For the sake of clarity, I’m going to talk about running, but intervals are done exactly the same way whether you’re walking, biking, swimming, or using cardio apparatus like the elliptical or arc trainer.
Warmup: This should take at least five minutes, building up to a moderate pace. Do not skip this step! Warm muscles are much less likely to get injured during an intense workout.
Interval Part 1: Run as hard as possible for one minute. Use the fastest pace you are capable of sustaining for the entire minute. You should be at about 9.5 on the RPE Scale.
Important: do not run longer than one minute at this pace.
Interval Part 2: Slow your pace until you’re at a 6 or 7 on the RPE scale (working it, winded, but still able to speak) for three minutes.
Repeat the cycle of one high-intensity minute to three medium-intensity minutes no more than three times. You can add more intervals in a couple weeks if you want, but don’t add more than one every two or three weeks.
Cool-down/Stretch: At the conclusion of your HIIT workout, take your time cooling down and stretching, and drink plenty of water. Be kind to your muscles, and they will be much happier with you tomorrow.
Workout Planning Tip: HIIT training should be used no more than two or three times a week, with a rest day in between. If you also do strength training, it’s best to do intervals on non-lifting days.
Tech Tip: There are Smartphone apps that are specifically designed to time your interval training. Search “interval timer” at the app store. If you don’t have a smartphone, a small electronic kitchen timer will also work.