HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts have become ALL THE CRAZE for the past couple of years. So many fitness studios have centered their workout routines based on this style of workout (F45, Barry’s, etc).
But if you are a beginner just starting to workout or new to fitness training altogether, you’re probably wondering… WHAT IS HIIT AND HOW DO I DO IT? Well, my friend, I’m about to give you all the answers you have been wondering as well as 10 tips on how to do it RIGHT!
WHAT IS HIIT?
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a fitness workout where you give your all-out, maximum effort for a short duration of time, followed by a short recovery period. Common interval times could range from 30-60 seconds of intense work followed by 10-30 seconds of rest.
I know that sounds, well, intense. BUT the reason why HIIT workouts have gotten so popular over the years is because of how time-efficient and effective the fitness workout is!
You can do a HIIT workout for as little as 15 minutes to as long as 60 minutes, all while still getting a great workout in!
Let’s be real here, time is EVERYTHING to us. There’s just simply not enough hours in the day to do everything we want.
But HIIT makes it so much more practical and convenient to pencil in that workout while still getting great physical and health effects from it!
So we know that HIIT is time-efficient, but how is it effective?
Well, HIIT workouts have so many health and physical benefits for your body that I could go on forever about this! But like I said earlier, our time here is valuable.
In a short explanation, HIIT workouts use your anaerobic system (meaning your body uses your energy reserves during exercise rather than oxygen) rather than your aerobic system to not only burn A LOT of calories during your workout but also AFTER you have completed your workout.
This fat burning workout also improves your heart health and maximal oxygen uptake (the best indicator of your fitness level). Now we see why people love HIIT workouts!
WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
Now that we have all of this background information, what do we do with it? How do I incorporate a HIIT workout into my fitness routine? Have no fear, pal, I’m about to give you my top 10 TIPS ON HOW TO DO HIIT AS A BEGINNER!
TIP #1: Always Warm Up AND Cool Down
This is a super important one. Although HIIT is one of the greatest workouts you can do, it also comes with high injury risk.
To avoid any injuries, you should start with a 2-5 minute warm-up to wake up those muscles and tell it to get ready to #work. If you just go right into intense workout exercises, chances are your muscles are stiff. This could lead to a pulled muscle and we don’t want any of that.
Cooling down is something most people forget (including myself at times). They think, yep, I’m done for the rest of the day and usually skip this step.
But if you want to make your recovery faster and come back even stronger, cooling down with some full body stretches will help alleviate soreness for the next couple of days.
TIP #2: Eat Before You Start Working Out
Some people might tell you that fasted cardio is the way to go for weight loss.
Others will say that they can’t get through their workout without eating something prior.
For HIIT, you’re going to want to eat to fuel your body beforehand (trust me – I tried doing it with an empty stomach, and let’s just say it did NOT turn out well).
But that doesn’t mean you need to eat a full-blown 3-course meal.
You could simply eat a nutritious snack such as eggs, avocado toast (I’ve got a pretty darn good recipe on this), or a breakfast bar – whatever you need to give you energy.
You should also plan to eat about 30 minutes to an hour before you start working out to let all of that food digest.
TIP #3: Wear Comfortable Shoes And Clothes
I’ve been doing HIIT workouts consistently for the past 2 years now and I can honestly say that the type of workout clothes you wear will make a huge difference in how you perform in your workout!
You’re going to be doing so many fast and explosive movements, so the LAST thing you want to worry about is pulling up your leggings or fixing your sports bra. Yeah, we don’t need any of that!
I highly suggest getting HIIT clothing that makes you feel COMFORTABLE AND CONFIDENT!
Quite frankly, any legging or short in the Everlux material is going to be your BEST friend during a HIIT workout.
Let me tell you, I sweat like a beast (gross, I know, but just keeping it real with you) and these leggings show ZERO sweat stains. They are sweat-wicking and hold up with any HIIT-style exercise you do.
I will warn you that they are on the pricier side. So, if you want to start doing more HIIT workouts, then I highly suggest investing in a pair. It’ll be worth it!
BUT if you want a cheap alternative, Amazon sells a dupethat’s only $25! The material is similar to the Luxtreme fabric from Lululemon. They don’t hold up as well, but for the price, I’ll take it!
For sports bras, I’m going to go ahead and list some of my favorites below! In all honesty, I’m pretty simple when it comes to sports bras.
So, when it comes to shoes, you don’t want to be wearing your weightlifting shoes you usually wear.
Why you ask?
Well, weightlifting shoes tend to be more on the flat side so there is no room for our ankles to roll or be unstable during a heavy lift.
But for HIIT, you’re going to want something with more cushion to soften your landings from all of the jumpings you will do.
I recommend the Nike Huarache for this! These have the perfect amount of cushion and also have a top that doesn’t wiggle around. Not trying to constantly fix my shoes over here!
TIP #4: Plan Your Workout And Get A Timer App
It’s really important to write out your workout routine for the day and have a plan for how you will time the intervals.
The whole purpose of a HIIT workout is to perform intense bouts of exercise during a short time frame with a short recovery period. You don’t want to be stressing about what exercise is next or about starting your watch/timer again in the middle of the workout!
I use this FREE TIMER APP that allows you to time your intervals! It’s super simple and easy to use!
When choosing what exercises you want to do, try to include full body workouts!
I would also start with very basic workout exercises that still challenge you to complete your intervals. Here is a HIIT exercises list you can start with:
Another great thing about choosing your workout exercises for HIIT is that most of them can be done ANYWHERE.
So you have the choice to do a full body HIIT workout at home or at the gym, wherever is most convenient for you!
Now, if you want to incorporate some other HIIT workout exercises that specifically target certain muscles (such as the abs, legs, and butt), GO FOR IT! Just make sure you have an equal balance between what muscles you will be targeting during your HIIT workout routine.
PSST… You can get my FREE 2 WEEK CHALLENGE where I give you multiple HIIT workouts that you can follow throughout 2 weeks just by signing up! The good news is that you can also complete these workout routines at home!
TIP #5:Don’t Overdo It Your First Time
Ever heard of the saying “slow and steady wins the race?”
Well, that applies to this tip! A HIIT challenge is not an easy workout. It’s going to take time to develop the strength and endurance to get through this type of workout.
I know you feel excited and super stoked to start but think of it this way.
Would you run a marathon without practicing first?
Can you get an A on your hardest exam of the year without any form of studying beforehand (okay, maybe some of you smarties out there can but you get my point)?
So my suggestion? Take it slow.
Learn to love the journey and also really focus on your form.
Yes, you want to be getting in as many reps as you can during the interval. But you also don’t want to be flopping around, not using any of your muscles, when trying to do an exercise.
Take the time to perfect your form. This way, you can do more complicated moves in the future (and trust me, you’re going to want to, those mountain climbers WILL get boring later down the road).
SECRET BONUS TIP
Maybe this isn’t a secret, but I want to share it with you anyways!
Always, always, always, always (did I mention always?) engage your core while performing any type of HIIT exercise.
Since the goal is to give your all-out effort as fast as you can, you’re going to want to stabilize your abs so you have control over how your body moves!
Your core is the foundation for all your movements during a HIIT workout. It seems so simple but it’s one of the hardest things for most people to understand.
TIP #6: Give Your BEST Effort
Notice how I say BEST.
This means you don’t want to give 60% of your effort into your intervals (which I’m sure we know that by now).
But you also don’t want to give 120% of your effort either.
You want to give your 100%, whatever that is for the day, and that’s it. If you give anything less than that, you’re not maximizing your training potential and defeating the purpose of a HIIT workout.
But if you give anything more than 100%, you’re going to wear yourself out. So this tip ties into the last tip of don’t overdo it!
Yeah, maybe you are training this way to lose weight or to become healthier and practice some weight control, but you also want to make the journey as enjoyable and fun as possible!
Fitness doesn’t have to be boring or something you have to do. Fitness should be exciting and something you WANT to do!
But I’m a #realist and I understand that we can’t always give our 100% effort into every single workout we do (unless you can, then I applaud you). As long as you are trying your BEST for that given day, then that’s all that matters.
ANOTHER SECRET BONUS TIP
Man, I love giving out these bonus tips!
It’s really important to know the optimal heart rate when it comes to a HIIT workout.
Going along with the whole “don’t overdo it” spiel, knowing when you are putting in too much is a must.
So, the optimal heart rate for a HIIT workout is about 80-90% of your maximum heart rate.
Your maximum heart rate can be calculated as 220 minus your age. Then you’ll want to multiply that number by 0.80 and 0.90 to find the range of where your heart rate should be!
So let’s take our girl Jessica for example. Jessica is 20 years old. Her maximum heart rate is going to be calculated as:
220 – 20 =200 BPM (beats per minute)
Now to find her optimal heart rate, you will do this:
200 x 0.80 = 160 BPM and 200 x 0.90 = 180 BPM
So, Jessica’s optimal heart rate during HIIT should be between 160-180 BPM!
You can manually check this during exercise by finding your pulse (either on your wrist or neck) and count how many beats there are for 6 seconds and multiply that by 10 to get your heart rate.
OR you can use a fitness gadget like an Apple Watch or Fitbit! I personally use an Apple Watch and I love it. It shows me how long I have been working out for, my active and total calories I’m burning, AND what my heart rate is at the moment.
TIP #7:Use Lighter Weights
Okay, so I want to start by saying that you don’t really NEED any type of fitness equipment to do a HIIT workout.
But if you did want to use some weights in your exercises, it’s really important to use a lighter weight than normal.
So if you normally use 15 lb to lift, go down to maybe 10 lb.
Since we are trying to give our maximum effort as fast as we can in the interval time, we don’t want to be slowed down TOO MUCH by a heavy weight. We can save the heavy weights for our lifting days!
If you try lifting heavy during a HIIT workout, you are putting yourself at greater risk for an injury to occur and we do not want that happening!
So pick a weight that will be somewhat challenging, but not too light or too heavy. It’s all about finding that balance!
TIP #8: Drink Lots Of Fluids Pre- And Post-Recovery
I feel like a lot of people don’t talk about pre- or post-recovery but it’s a really important aspect of HIIT and fitness in general. You want to drink lots (and I mean LOTS) of water before AND after your workout.
The reason why you want to drink plenty of water before doing HIIT (and I don’t mean minutes, I’m talking days) is that you don’t want to be dehydrated during your workout.
You’ll be putting your body through so much stress. By being dehydrated, you would be doing more harm than good to your body.
Plus, it’s not a great feeling when you constantly feel thirsty from dehydration during any type of workout.
In terms of post-recovery, let’s think about it.
You just sweat a ton and probably weren’t drinking nearly enough water during your workout. Replenishing your body with water will promote better recovery and a potential decrease in soreness for the next couple of days.
IF you want to take this a step further, I would recommend you drink a protein shake (at least 20 grams) right after your workout.
This will help EVEN MORE with soreness and recovery time by building those torn muscles back up much stronger and faster.
My favorite protein powder is this vegan one by Women’s Best. I find that it gives me leaner muscle AND tastes good (considering it being vegan haha)!
TIP #9:Don’t Do HIIT Every Day
After you do your first HIIT workout, you’re probably thinking one of two things:
A) That was SO hard I’m not sure how I got through it, or B) THAT WAS SO FLIPPING FUN!! I FEEL GREAT!! LET’S DO IT AGAIN!!
Now, if you’re anything like me, you are probably person B.
We just can’t contain our excitement so we want to keep doing it again, and again, and again.
BUT we shouldn’t and here’s why person B.
We put our bodies through an incredible amount of stress during a HIIT workout. This isn’t your typical jog around the block.
Your muscles and heart need time to heal. Putting added stress to the muscles you extensively worked the day before is going to potentially give you an injury and then BOOM just like that, you’re out of the gym for months.
So, take it from me, only do HIIT 1-3 times per week to start. When you become more acquainted with the workout, you can bump it up to about 3-4 times per week.
TIP #10: Trust that you will grow stronger from HIIT
Phew, we made it to the last tip!
This is personally my favorite tip out of all of them and that’s to trust yourself.
You might feel discouraged in the beginning when maybe you can’t get through the whole workout your first time (I’m pretty sure I was seeing stars the first time I ever tried HIIT).
But have trust that you are going to get stronger and build a stronger heart by sticking to HIIT workouts. It’s not going to happen overnight.
But like anything you work hard for, it will pay off in the long run.
Final Thoughts on HIIT Workouts
I know how intimidating it might be to try a HIIT workout as a beginner.
But find comfort in knowing that EVERYONE has started out as a beginner!
It takes time to grow stronger and faster. Try to set a fitness goal before you begin so you can track your progress and transformation.
Stay dedicated. Stay motivated. You’ll start to see results from your hard work pay off in as little as 2 weeks!