Ok you’ve heard all about the benefits of a HIIT workout. The health benefits, the weight loss, fat loss and body composition benefits.
You love that they’re quick. That they’ll get you fitter, and slimmer in less time. You’re on board. You’re ready.
You’ve got a plan.
But if that plan involves regular HIIT sessions, daily intense workouts, or high-intensity sessions in close succession. Read this before you start your plan.
Because there are some negative benefits of high-intensity interval training.
Yes, it’s a really effective way of hitting your fitness goals, but, you have to be careful that you don’t do too much HIIT training.
Let me explain…
understand the negative effects of HIIT training we first need to
understand how it works. If
you’ve read any of my other pages you probably already know, so
if you don’t fancy another recap you can skip down.
HIIT workouts...short periods of high-intensity exercise by rest periods.
To make sure you’re getting all of the potential benefits, you have to make sure you’re giving maximum effort during the work periods. And sucking in as much oxygen as you can during the rest. So that you’re ready to go again.
A few seconds of work followed by a few seconds of rest. Work, rest, work rest.
That is what a typical HIIT workout looks like. It is the fundamentals of high intensity interval training.
It’s this that increases both your anaerobic and your aerobic fitness. It’s this that makes your body burn more calories up to 24 hours after your workout has finished. But it’s also this that can cause problems if you do too much HIIT.
Can there really be such a thing as
too much HIIT? And how much is too much HIIT?
Surely if HIIT is good and it’s going to get you to your fitness goals, doing more HIIT is going to be even better. Can you really have too much of a good thing?
Too answer that we need to understand that exercise, especially intense exercise, is a stress. It’s a good stress yes, and certainly not one you should shy away from. But it is still a stress. And like with all stress it has to be managed properly.
Why is it a stress?
Intense physical activity activates the same systems as those that would be activated in the presence of an external threat, like spotting a sabre tooth tiger in the next field, or an argument with your hubby, or three year old.
Adrenaline and cortisol levels, they’re your stress hormones, will increase, raising heart rate and blood pressure and curbing non-essential systems like your reproductive and digestive systems.
This, in itself, is not a bad thing.
It’s known as your fight-or flight response. It gives you the ability to stay and fight the perceived danger, or flee from it.
The problem comes when you’re in this stress response for an extended period.
Long term exposure to your stress hormones leaves you at risk of many, many, many health problems. Anxiety, depression, weight gain, digestive problems, headaches and sleep problems.
I’m guessing you’re hoping that your workouts will help you avoid at least some of these issues.
So, no doing more HIIT might not help you reach your goals sooner. In fact, it might mean you never get there.
Just imagine trying to workout, trying to give all out effort when you’re already knackered. When you’re already burnt out and probably not sleeping much. You either won’t be able to give the level of effort you need to, or you’re just going to get injured.
Remember above where I said the goal
with HIIT is to give maximum effort. You need to get to about 80-90%
of your maximum heart rate.
You can’t do that everyday.
It’s just not possible. If you try you won’t succeed and you’ll just burn yourself out.
So, if you’re interested in doing HIIT, make sure you have at least one rest day in between each workout.
Yep, one whole day. 24 hours of rest.
So, I do nothing?
No, you don’t have to do nothing. Although you should have one day of complete rest a week. You can do active recovery. Something at a lower intensity.
A bit of stretching, yoga maybe. A little walk. Just something to keep you moving. Keep your muscles moving.
So definitely don’t do HIIT everyday. At the most, if you’re planning on doing a 30-minute HIIT workout, I’d plan on doing 2-3 sessions a week.
You know I’m a big fan of HIIT. I
love it. I use it loads in my own training and when training my
clients. It really is an effective workout.
But remember it’s a primarily a cardio workout.
And if you want a well rounded workout routine that’s going to improve your current fitness levels AND get you looking amazing you’re going to have to do more than cardio. More than HIIT.
You will also need to do strength training, flexibility and mobility training and some balance and stability training as well.
Yes, it sounds like a lot, but these don’t have to be separate sessions.
So how many days a week, or workout sessions can you manage in a week.
If it’s two, do one HIIT and one weight training session with a good bit of mobility and flexibility with each one. By the way, mobility can be used as a warm up and flexibility can be done during your cool down.
If you can fit in 3, try two HIIT sessions and one full-body, strength training session. If it’s four, then do two of each.
If you can fit in more than four, dedicate the remaining sessions to other forms of exercise, yoga, a moderate walk, some steady-state cardio, or maybe a bit of dancing.
Whatever it is you can fit in, keep those workouts varied.
My other tip when it comes to planning
your workouts is work up to the full plan slowly.
Start with one session you can do regularly. Prioritise HIIT, if that’s going to a part of your plan, but make it something you can do regularly. Make it a habit before you add any more in.
Once it’s a habit and you can’t remember a time when you didn’t do it, then add in another.
Once that one becomes a habit, and you’re planning your week and childcare around attending the class, doing the workout, wherever that maybe, then add in another.
Do it slowly. Make every workout a habit. Something that you just couldn't imagine not doing before you add in more.
It’ll make your workouts easier to stick to, because you just couldn’t imagine not doing them.
I would strongly advise that you
really enjoy what you’re planning to do and that your workouts are
Little K is with nanny and grandad 3 days a week. So I plan my workouts around that. I started with a boxing class and then I added in a CrossFit type class on a Saturday morning.
I’m prioritising classes at the moment because I love working out with people. I find it more motivating than working out on my own. I know I’m a personal trainer and I motivate my clients to workout and give their all, but I don’t find it as easy to motivate myself. So, I go to a few classes.
Anyway, boxing on a Thursday morning. Crossfit style class on a Saturday morning.
I was planning on going to a HIIT class on a Monday morning, but, it’s not a great time for me.
It’s at 9.30 and I struggle to get anything done before or after. So I stopped going. I was always making excuses. And I realised, I wasn’t really enjoying the class as much as the others and I didn’t find it convenient.
I know there’s an argument that sometimes you’ve just got to do it, but, I know myself and I know I’m not going to. So instead of trying each week and failing, I stopped planning to go and made another plan instead.
If you’re interested I’m going do my own, strong-woman style workout. It’ something I’ve been missing. My heavy moves, done heavy. I’ve wanted to get back to for a while so I’m planning my own.
I know this tip has been all about me, but the take away is, know yourself. Don’t let anyone else tell you just to stick to it, and you have to be more dedicated, if something is not working for you, change it.
There is always something else you can do.
I’m a personal trainer and I love working out, but I know that HIIT class on a Monday morning isn’t going to be something I can stick to. So, I’ve found another way.
There is always another way.
Yes, High-intensity training is great.
It’s a really efficient way of achieving your overall goals.
But, how often should you do HIIT Workouts? Please don’t be fooled into thinking more is better.
It’s really not.
More is more.
More can mean your more tired. More can mean you’re risk of injury is increased. More can mean you’re more likely to feel burnt out and stressed.
When it comes to HIIT more is just more.
The trick is to find the sweet spot. The healthy balance between HIIT, active recovery, resistance training and any other type of exercise you may want to try.
Once you get that sweet spot, make those workouts a habit so they are a non-negotiable part of your week.
When you get there, you’ll have this healthy lifestyle stuff nailed.
As always, let me know how you get on.
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