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There’s a long list of benefits when it comes to HIIT Training: It improves athletic performance and cardiovascular health, revs your metabolism for hours, gets you out of the gym fast, and has an endless list of workouts and moves to try. One recent study found that despite the effort, people genuinely enjoyed interval training, most likely because they got a great workout in little time.

HIIT expert Colette McShane tells RW her ultimate guide to the intense exercise.

What’s HIIT training?

“HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval training. It’s when you work to your absolute max, putting in 100% effort, through short intense bursts of exercise. You’ll then have a short recovery for about 10 seconds, before you go again. HIIT training gets your heart rate up fast and burns more fat in less time than traditional steady state cardio training. You can incorporate HIIT into many exercises. I love plyometric exercises involving squat jumps, tuck jumps, burpees, squat thrusts and plyometric lunges. I’m also a huge fan of interval running and even sprinting on the spot in HIIT training.”

What are the benefits?

“You’ll build muscle and train more efficiently in a much shorter space of time. HIIT gets you super fit super fast and can be done anywhere with no equipment needed. It also has a massive impact on your run speed. You’ll find you’ll fly up the hills a lot faster due to the strength in your legs, and even the strong core strength you gain will help your pace. In HIIT sessions you move fast, so your body gets used to running fast with regular flat out sprinting and powerful plyometric exercises.”

What should I eat and drink?

“During a HIIT session, you are looking for optimal performance and you will only get this if you are fuelled with the right foods and hydration. I’d suggest drinking coffee before an early morning session. You should also fuel up ahead of your session with some carbs, but don’t go nuts as you certainly don’t want to feel full. A banana is often good for a bit of energy an hour before a session. Post session, eat something protein rich (or a shake straight after), such as a veggie packed omelette or frittata (if it’s breakfast time). You’ll enjoy your food more knowing that you’re still in the fat burning zone well after your session has wrapped up. Remember: It’s important to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water after your workout.”

I’m a beginner – is that okay?

“Absolutely. HIIT is open to beginners. You have to start somewhere, right? You can do a modified version of some of the traditional bodyweight exercises, like replace a squat jump with an air squat, or a step out lunge in place of a plyometric lunge, if you need to. Your sprints will be a work in progress and you’ll get faster as you progress. A beginner will become pretty advanced very quickly with regular HIIT training.”

When should I train?

“I do a form of HIIT training most days; however I change which body parts I work as often as possible. Mix it up with a full body blast one day, and then an interval running session the next. You can even try a skipping session, followed by an upper body and core session. For a full body HIIT workout and max results, go for 3 times per week, adding sessions into your running training program. E.g. 3 days HIIT and 3 days running. Watch your results soar and your PB’s get quicker and quicker. The beauty of a HIIT session is that it’s never really longer than 30 minutes – it can be slotted in at any time of the day – so go with whatever works for you. I personally love to train in the morning as I am usually pretty hyper after a tough HIIT session, but I know lots of people who prefer an evening session.”

Three Key Tips:

  1. Be consistent – aim for a 30 minute HIIT session three times per week.
  2. Work to your max otherwise you’re wasting you’re time and you won’t get the full benefits and results of a HIIT workout.
  3. Go for a big range of movement for a full body workout. Make sure you have got the form down pat and then the speed comes after.

Colette McShane (34) is a fitness professional and ambassador for the Australian Adventure Festival from Melbourne, Victoria.

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