Secrets To Maximise Your HIIT

Today’s feature is a guest post by the very inspiring Programme Director, Sarah Keane of Fitness Camp, Ireland. Sarah has years of valuable experience in the fitness industry and has helped many women achieve their fitness goals through her killer bootcamps. Visit her blog to read more articles about fitness and healthy tips.


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“Energy and persistence conquer all things”, (Benjamin Franklin)

Strategies to maximise your HIIT

I wrote briefly about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) a few weeks ago in a piece on Fitness Tricks to Lose Weight Quick.

So I thought this week I would expand on it and share some highly effective strategies to make the most out of this training technique.

I began incorporating high intensity interval training (HIIT) in my regular workouts about three years ago, and I haven’t looked back – in my experience there is nothing to compare with it in terms of getting results – fast!

It not only can create rapid changes in body shape, but when done correctly it can sky-rocket your aerobic fitness.

When it is combined with an intelligently designed resistance programme, then you are on to a real winner. I will write on that topic again, but for now here is the low down on how to just get your Intervals right for a starter.

  • Baseline Aerobic Fitness

It should go without saying that you cannot dive straight into this sort of training without first developing a base aerobic fitness.

Before beginning an interval training programme I strongly recommend at least a couple of weeks of steady state aerobic training (working at a set pace for the duration of a session) – even if it is just walking briskly or jogging gently for 20-30 minutes.

When you have built up to 5-6 sessions per week, and you feel a significant improvement in your breathing and endurance – then begin to introduce intervals.

  • Boosting your Aerobic Capacity

Intervals are most effective when you can work at a very high intensity for a short burst – but in order to be able to do that, you must first build up your aerobic capacity.

Aerobic capacity is your ability to use oxygen to produce energy to fire your muscles… it is measured by the VO2max. The fitter you become, the higher your VO2max will be (the more O2 your body is conditioned to use per minute and the greater your energy output becomes)

LONG INTERVALS are a really effective way of increasing your VO2max.

Work for 3-4minutes (faster than your steady state pace – you should be working at an intensity that challenges you), followed by 2-3 minutes gentle recovery.  Repeat for 20-30 minutes. Build up to 2-3 sessions per week.

  • Introduce Short Burst HIIT

 If you are a complete beginner you will start with the timing combination outlined in level 1 and as you improve, steadily work your way towards level 4. You can use a treadmill or any cardio machine (such as a stepper) if you prefer, you can also use aerobic moves and steps/ ropes/ hoops.The combinations are endless, I sometimes use the treadmill for 10mins intervals and follow-up with aerobic moves (step/skip/jump) for 20mins. Whatever you choose, the key is to work to near maximum exertion and then recover.

Level 1 – Work 30sec, Recover 90sec.  Repeat 20-30mins

Level 2 – Work 30 sec, Recover 60sec. Repeat 20-25mins.

Level 3 – Work 30 sec, Recover 30 sec. Repeat 15–20mins.

Level 4   – Work 60 sec, Recover 60sec. Repeat 20mins.

If you are working towards a goal you can do up to 3 HIIT sessions per week.

  • Further Boost Aerobic Capacity

 After you have worked with intervals for a couple of weeks you can introduce Steps and Pyramids to further enhance your aerobic capacity. These are used as another really effective way to increase VO2max… which will allow you to work at an even higher intensity during your next round of intervals – great craic! I like Steps, I don’t know why, I think it’s because there is a build up to the hard run at the end and then you’re done, finish line in site… It gets the name from the continual incremental increase in the intensity of your workout. Steps & Pyramids can only really be done properly on cardio equipment and a really accurate measure of intensity is required – but timing and Intensity combinations are endless.

An example on a treadmill, starting at 10 for 5mins, increase to 11 for 5mins, 12 for 5mins, 13 for 5mins and so on… for 25-30minutes.

Pyramids get their name due to the incremental increase and decrease in the intensity. These can be tougher than steps as they create a greater oxygen deficit by not allowing for full recovery before intensity increases again.

An example on the treadmill would be to work at 9 for 30sec, 10 for 30sec, 11 for 30sec, 12 for 30sec, 13 for 30sec, 12 for 30sec, 11 for 30sec, 10 for 30sec, 9 for 30sec.. and repeat for 20-30mins.

  •  The Ultimate Fat Stripper

So HIIT causes a mass release of free fatty acids (FFA) from your cells into your bloodstream – as you become fitter, you can capitalise on this by finishing your interval session with 10-15mins steady state, metabolising whatever remaining FFA’s are in circulation. You will know you are in incredible condition when you can finish off a HIIT with another 10-15 mins cardio, both physically and mentally.

 Words of Caution to avoid over training and injury.

I always say it – but especially when it comes to HIIT, you must LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.

This type of training places huge stress on your system, so be in tune with how your body is responding to the workouts and do not ignore niggles/twinges. If you spend most of the time walking around like John Wayne because your legs are in bits, that’s not much good!!

 Also pay attention to your energy levels – if your fitness sessions are wiping you out and diminishing your quality of life – then you need to sit down and re-think things.

Exercise should enhance your life not restrict/limit it!

Generally HIIT is not a suitable long-term training strategy for many women, and so it is best used periodically to reach a specific goal (over 6-10weeks).

However, there are some lunatics for punishment out there that just love it – so if you are intending to train this way regularly then take extra care of yourself with good nutrition, and regular sessions with a Physical Therapist (to stay on top of knots and make sure you’re not damaging yourself).

Hope this has been helpful, if you have any thoughts  visit Fitness Camp, Ireland – I’d love to hear them x

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