Thursday, 26 June 2014

The one thing you need to add to your exercise routine

** Warning:  Motivational Quotes scattered liberally throughout this post!**

If you want to burn more kilojoules in less time and make maximum strength and fitness gains you really need to add High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) to your exercise routine. 

Before I had my first son, I had always been fairly active.  I played and trained for netball several times a week, but I had a haphazard approach to other forms of exercise.   I’d have good periods of exercising regularly but then have long gaps in between.  I struggled to maintain any consistent approach to cardio or weight training. 

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In 2010, while on maternity leave for the first time, I decided I wanted to get stronger and fitter.  My goals were to be able to do at least 2 chin ups and I wanted to compete in a half-marathon (even though I really don’t enjoy running!) I joined a gym and I started to participate in group exercise classes (mainly cycle, pump and attack) and I developed a good fitness base. I worked up to things like full push ups and I was able to go harder and faster in classes. 

But then I hit a plateau and I needed to change it up.  My exercise had become too much of a routine and my body had adjusted to the work load. So I searched the internet trying to find some new workouts and I came across (now The Daily Hiit).  Despite my hate of their marketing strategy (fake boobs, fake boobs, legs and more fake boobs) they do provide excellent HIIT work outs that are all free and updated regularly.  
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This was my introduction to HIIT and I soon became a convert. I saw quick results – I was getting stronger and my body shape was changing. Thanks to HITT, I was at my fitness peak in 2011, twelve months after having my first son.  I was lighter and stronger than I had ever been.  I also achieved both of my goals.  I could do 3 unassisted chin ups and I ran the 2011 Marysville half –marathon in a time of 1:56; a time I was really happy with as a previous non-runner!

My half-marathon - one thing crossed off the bucket list!
What is HIIT?

HIIT is a training technique in which you give all-out, one hundred percent effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods. This type of training gets and keeps your heart rate up and burns more fat in less time.’

Think squats, lunges, jumping, push ups, burpees, planks and plyometric exercises.  You usually complete one exercise at full intensity for 45 to 60 seconds and then recover for 10 – 20 seconds before you go again....and again.  And most workouts last only 20-30 minutes.

Research consistently shows that HIIT is one of the most effective forms of exercise if you want to increase your strength and cardiovascular endurance and it has the added bonus of continuing to burn kilojoules long after you have finished your workout.

Other advantages include:
  •  It uses minimal equipment
  • You don’t need much space
  • You can work out at home

 So why isn’t everyone doing it?

It is hard.  It puts you out of your comfort zone. It is short but very intense.  You have to work to your maximum effort and you have to push through many a mental battle.  But it is absolutely worth it!

How do you start?

1.       Purchase a Gymboss Interval Timer  or download an interval timer app.

Because the work outs are short and intense you don’t want to be looking at clock trying to work out when you should be working and when you should be resting.  You set your timer to beep or vibrate to indicate when you need to stop or start.  It really helps improve the quality of your workouts.  I also love my pink colour!

2.      Gather a few basic pieces of equipment.

Although you can easily complete workouts with no equipment it adds greater variety if you have a few basic pieces.  A set of dumbbells (4 or 5kg would be a good place to start), a skipping rope and a medicine ball is a great starting point.  Search eBay for cheap options or ask around - lots of people have some of this stuff just laying around and would be happy to pass it on.

3.      Become familiar with the basic moves and build up slowly

You need to get your technique right so when you move onto plyometric (jumping) versions of exercises you don’t hurt yourself  Make sure you know how to properly and safely squat, lunge, complete a push up and hold a plank.  A lot of HIIT exercises are built around these four exercises.  This video is a good place to start.

Break harder moves down in to easier variations.  If you haven't done a burpee in a while, start by putting your hands on a chair or step rather than the floor.  Or from the plank position try stepping one leg back at a time rather than jumping them both back together.

You also need to make sure your pelvic floor is strong, especially if you have had children!  HIIT involves jumping moves to help get the heart rate up.

4.      Download the free Nike Training Club app or select a beginners challenge from The Daily Hitt. 

Both have workouts to cater from beginners to intermediate to advanced.  They have great advice on how to perform each exercise and give modifications based on your fitness level. 

I love not having to think about making up a workout.  You just select one and press play and away you go.

There are lots of others out there, find the one that suits you the best.

5.       Get tough

It’s time to step out of the comfort zone and start the ‘suck it up princess’ pep talks.  Once you start to feel stronger this will get easier as you know you are getting rewarded for your hard work.  Set a goal, decide on a reward or make a pact with a friend.  Do whatever you need to do to make sure you persist at the start when it is the hardest and the easiest to give up.

So, now 6 months after having JJ I can no longer do a chin up and am back to running 6 min/kms for very short distances.  However I have slowly re-established my strength and endurance base by returning to netball and group exercise classes at the gym. 

So now I am ready to get back on the HIIT train.  I’ve started going back to Grit classes (the Les Mills version of HIIT) and have started to do some home sessions.  I still want to get back to completing unassisted chin ups, but I'm happy to never do a half-marathon again.  I need to find a new challenge - any ideas?

I’m also going to introduce a ‘HIIT with a BITT’ series on the blog next month.  It will show you how you can introduce High Intensity Interval Training into your routine with a Baby Infant Tot or Toddler on the scene.  

Stay tuned!

Tell me, do you love or loathe HIIT training? 

Linking up with Katie at 'Katie Did What' for Healthy Habits go and check it out for more motivation and ideas!

Keep smiling

This post contains affiliate links.


  1. I love HIIT training! Before I started those workouts I had never done any type of workout consistently, therefore I never let my body become comfortable with it and never saw results. I started a program called Texas Fit Chicks here in my town which I believe uses HIIT training and I saw/felt results within the first week. I am in love with it and I never want to stop!
    You're right though, it was way out of my comfort zone at first but way worth it.. :)

    1. It's so good to see results, it helps keep the motivation up!. It sounds like you are doing great!

  2. I've never done HITT training before, but now i'm very interested! I'm 25 weeks pregnant, and so ready to workout hard and intense again! I'll definitely be looking into this once this baby is here!

    1. Congraulations on the baby on the way, how exciting! The Daily HIIT currently has a program for pregnant women you might like to check out!

  3. They notoriously use all types of resistance training methods... while neglecting bodyweight exercise all together.

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