We all know that this is the time of year when our workout regimes can suffer. The lure of the extra glass of wine, the festive chocolates or an extra helping of turkey and roast potatoes can be a bit much as we get closer to Christmas.
Plus it’s easy to console yourself that as soon as January rolls around you’ll go straight back to healthy eating and regular exercise. When it comes to exercise though, you need to think carefully about what you’re doing and how it will benefit you.
If it’s time to make a change and introduce something new to the mix, take a look at high intensity interval training - also known as HIIT.
In essence, HIIT workouts involve hard work, with short rests. They’re often touted as a great home workout because you can do them quickly and they are effective. But, as a recent article in Coach Magazine recently pointed out, it’s also easy to miss the mark.
One of the most important things to get right with HIIT training is the intensity level. You should be working hard, no doubt, but at a rate that you can sustain across all of your intervals. That means by the third or fourth round you shouldn’t be flagging, you should be going just as hard as you were in round one.
You also need to consider what you’ll be doing in your rest periods. Generally, an active recovery is preferable because it will help flush the lactic acid out of your muscles.
So, if you’re new to HIIT, how should you get started? Rather than heading straight for YouTube, you’ll be better off if you go to an online personal trainer to get advice on the kinds of exercises to do in your workout. They’ll also be able to tell you how many intervals you should start with, and how long you should be working for.
The advantage to working with a trainer is that they can come up with a workout that fits in with your life and that will help you meet your wider fitness goals. The kind of interval training a cyclist will need to do will be different to that of a runner, for instance.
One of the great things about HIIT is that it can work for almost everyone, you just need to tailor the exercises appropriately. If you’re only just getting back to exercising after a break, start with easier workouts and gradually build up to more challenging sessions.
And because the idea is to exercise in short bursts, you don’t need to spend hours at the gym to get fit.
HIIT workouts can benefit more than just your physical health too. A study carried out by the University of Newcastle in Australia and shared last month found that getting teenagers to engage in regular HIIT sessions improved their academic performance too.
Professor David Lubans, lead researcher, commented: “High intensity activity is very potent and lab-based studies have found that HIIT can improve aspects of mental health and cognitive function, both of which are important for academic performance.”
He also explained that introducing students to HIIT sessions when they’re 16 to 18 is ideal, because it teaches them how to exercise even when they don’t have lots of time and can help them deal with the stress of exams.