If you have even just a modicum of interest in fitness and exercise, then you will most likely have heard of HIIT – high-intensity interval training. You may have read about it, scrolled through it on social media, or see it being discussed in various media – or right at the gym you frequent, by the people you see every day.
There’s probably more than a decent chance that you’ve heard something along the lines of, “HIIT is the best way to get in shape”, or “Any exercise apart from HIIT is an exercise in futility”. Statements like these have everyone talking about HIIT as THE training du jour. Everybody and his or her mother are hitched firmly on the HIIT bandwagon.
That’s not to say HIIT isn’t effective – in fact, HIIT is highly beneficial to your metabolism, cardio, and overall health. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s for anyone and everyone.
There are many factors you should first consider before going on such an intensive and comprehensive HIIT – and understand the risks, as well as the proper way to do it.
And your current health situation as well as physique DO matter.
Let’s examine why HIIT isn’t necessarily for everyone.
HIIT is Very Taxing
Let’s get something straight – HIIT is going to be the most intense form of training that you can do. That’s a good thing. The intensity of a HIIT session is what exactly delivers the benefits that it has been associated with – and that’s the reason why longtime HIIT enthusiasts swear by it. It’s all about going the extra mile, and putting in the work you need to achieve the results you desire – in the shortest amount of time spent at the gym possible.
However, it’s not just as simple as doing the hardest possible variation of a particular exercise – that’s just not true. As with anything, mileage will vary as far as intensity goes – a HIIT session for a 65-year old would be way different for young adults. It’s all a question of a person’s fitness levels, health situation, and age.
There is a tradeoff for everything – including the fast-paced, hit-it-and-quit-it nature of HIIT training. You didn’t expect that condensing an hour’s worth of an exercise to a minute with HIIT didn’t have a tradeoff, right?
And the tradeoff is that it is almost certainly going to be an unpleasant workout for you, especially when starting out. Prepare to be pushed, because you need to give your 100% to get anything out of it. Like, at the level of being a limp sponge afterwards.
It’s the reason why people who join HIIT classes eventually drop like flies as it goes on – you need to enjoy going all out to stick with the program. It’s unsustainable for many of us for a reason.
HIIT is Designed to Wear your Nervous System Down
HIIT isn’t just physically taxing – it’s also taxing for your nervous system. It’s literally designed to wear you out.
Fair enough. The thing is, HIIT is often bandied around and hyped as the only thing that will burn your fat effectively, so highly-motivated people will attempt anywhere from three to five sessions each week. And then include the same amount of intense resistance training sessions per week.
Going back to the question of unsustainability, no amount of motivation can keep a person from constantly wearing his or her body out – there will come a time when your body will be fatigued.
Worse? Some gym rats see this pain and exhaustion as “weakness leaving the body” or a symptom of not training with the right intensity, leading to them constantly increase what is already an extremely high intensity.
And, more often than not, this is where people start hurting themselves. Never, ever, EVER overtrain. Listen to your body and keep it well monitored. Use a HRM watch to see if your heart rate is under its limits during exercise, and listen to physical signs like aches, pains and sore muscles.
Also strive for an equilibrium of intense training and the right amount of rest and recovery. That’s where you’ll see the optimal results of HIIT.
HIIT is NOT for Everyone
Here’s the red pill about HIIT – it’s not suitable for everyone.
If you’re a beginner, or just not the type who can motivate yourself to your highest training levels, it’s probably better not to dabble into HIIT. Besides, you stand to gain the same benefits as doing HIIT will, only that it’s at a slower, more adaptable pace.
HIIT is also not suitable if you have an existing health condition or illness, and if you do, it’s best to consult your health practitioner before going on such an intense exercise routine.
As always, use your common sense, and consult your trainer and your physician before considering going down the HIIT route. Keep well, and remember to listen to your body.