Recently there has been a HUGE push in the fitness industry towards High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or other intense forms of exercise. We have Tough Mudders, Warrior Dashes, Crossfit, Tabata, HIIT aerobics, and a variety of other high intensity classes and events that are becoming more and more popular.
Confession: I love them. I thrive off a challenge. Dare I say I’m addicted to a workout where you are shaking and want to quit. I have used Crossfit protocols and workouts in my own training and have adapted these workouts with my clients. In fact, I love a good 10 Minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible).
But that isn’t my only method of training. In fact, I like a nice balance in my training. Cycle some aerobic work with traditional strength mixed up with some HIIT training and I’m hooked! Here’s why….
There are benefits to each style. And it has been proven that we must have some form of progressive overload to keep from plateau. It also brings us back to functional fitness…
Think about your life for a second. You get up. You maybe eat breakfast and then you sit. You walk to work, (maybe) take the stairs, and then you sit from 9 to 5. You get up. You go home. You sit for dinner. Maybe you get your workout in there at some point. But maybe not. You do some house work. You sit. You sleep.
But wait. As you are home making dinner, your 3 year old reaches for a hot pan on the stove. You dash to stop her and catch the pan. As you are doing yard work, your dog dashes towards the road- and you sprint after him to bring him back to safety. You finish grocery shopping and run to your car in a storm. You have to help a friend move to a new apartment on the 15th floor while the elevator is broken.
So look again at your life: most of our time is spent at a minimal heart rate which equates with aerobic training. Low intensity. It is sustainable. But we have some high intensity moments- kids, pets, storms, friends, even being late to an important meeting cause us to move into high intensity mode. It’s quick. It’s fast. Its anaerobic. Chances are good that you would have a hard time sprinting after a dog over and over again from 9 – 5. But you could walk around at work all day.
So from a functional fitness standpoint, we should train aerobically. And probably more than we think we should. But we can’t neglect the importance of some anaerobic training and HIIT. And on top of all that, strength is important for being able to safely and efficiently complete aerobic and anaerobic activity, so we need to add that to our program as well.
So bear with me here….
I set the stage. I told you what I find to be the most effective and safe way to train (though there are ALWAYS exceptions. ALWAYS). So now hopefully you see how I have formulated my opinions (observation and a whole lot of reading research articles and continuing education – thank you NSCA and IDEA). And I am certified by the NSCA (who Crossfit has filed a lawsuit against). How do I make it work? Can HIIT and traditional aerobic/strength programs work together? Absolutely. But there must be guidelines.
1. HIIT requires some level of fitness. It is recommended that you have built a base before you begin and that you are physically able to perform at a higher level of intensity.
2. You should work up to a high level of exercise overnight. This isn’t 0 to 60. Its a progressive pattern. I don’t start my clients with 20 minute AMRAP. In fact, I don’t even start them at 5 minute AMRAP. Maybe 2-3 rounds of some exercises. Maybe.
3. One size doesn’t fit all. Don’t try to push people into one workout all day long. Adjust it based on needs, age, and ability.
4. You must consider: pre-training evaluation, technique (!!!!!), strength, speed, balance, warm-up, landing surface, footwear, training areas, equipment, and supervision.
(These points were gathered from the NSCA’s response to Crossfit’s lawsuit here).
HIIT training (and Crossfit) have their place and benefits. They can:
Increase performance significantly, elevates metabolism beyond your workout, elevate lactate threshold, and decrease recovery time
But so does aerobic exercise, which:
Improves fat metabolism, increases aerobic capacity, strengthens the immune system, builds resistance to fatigue, reduces the risk of heart disease, improves quality of sleep, reduces stress, improves mood, increases cardiac output, improves your lung function, increases mental function, and increases HDL (good cholesterol).
And traditional strength training does too, as it:
Increases bone density, improves tendon and ligament strength, increases mental toughness, and increases lactate threshold in addition to the aerobic benefits.
To sum it all up- you need to find what works for you at the level you need. But there must always be some balance.
Disclaimer: I do not have a CrossFit certification and do not advertise to teach CrossFit. Nor am I a “CrossFit Hater.” The intent of this article was to promote a balanced training program.