Tak­ing A HIIT

Push your reg­u­lar fit­ness rou­tine to the next level with high in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing

Expatriate Lifestyle - - Contents - Words Karin Chan Photo by F45 Train­ing KLCC, Fit­ness First Malaysia, HIIT2FIT

Re­cently, high in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing (HIIT) has been the hype of the lo­cal fit­ness scene. Ba­si­cally, you ex­er­cise hard for a short burst, take a short pe­riod to re­cover with low-in­ten­sity ex­er­cises or a quick break, and start again. Pe­ri­ods vary from 30 sec­onds to a minute for both the high- and low-in­ten­sity in­ter­vals. This helps you keep your heart rate up, build lean mus­cle, in­crease your me­tab­o­lism and your ex­cess post-ex­er­cise oxy­gen con­sump­tion (EPOC), which means that you burn plenty of calo­ries both dur­ing and after the ex­er­cise. Hiit-only work­outs usu­ally run for only 20 to 30 min­utes be­cause of how tough they are, but the key isn’t the amount of time you spend on the work­out – it’s whether you’re performing the ex­er­cises at the cor­rect in­ten­sity.

The HIIT prin­ci­ple can be ap­plied to many dif­fer­ent sports and ac­tiv­i­ties like run­ning, cy­cling and swim­ming, and it’s of­ten com­bined with func­tional and strength train­ing to cre­ate a well-rounded work­out. It’s favoured by many fit­ness en­thu­si­asts – es­pe­cially those with limited time – be­cause you reap max­i­mum ben­e­fits from a short pe­riod of ex­er­cise time.

Any­one can do HIIT work­outs as long as they are rea­son­ably healthy. In­ter­val train­ing isn’t a new con­cept and has been used in ath­letic train­ing for years, par­tic­u­larly for sports re­quir­ing in­tense speeds and bursts of move­ments. The in­ten­sity of these work­outs cor­re­sponds to your fit­ness lev­els and I put this to the test by try­ing three Hiit-in­spired pro­grammes in the Klang Val­ley. All in­for­ma­tion in the fol­low­ing work­out diary is brought to you cour­tesy of my sore, aching mus­cles.

Work­out One: Mean – HIIT2FIT (www.hiit2fit.com)

You know how you try to get away with eas­ing off be­cause “I don’t want to push my­self too hard”? Not at HIIT2FIT. A heart rate tracker strapped around my ribs dis­plays my vi­tals on a tele­vi­sion screen in re­al­time at the gym, in­clud­ing – most im­por­tantly – my heart rate and what ‘zone’ it’s cur­rently at. I’m told to keep my heart rate in the or­ange and red zones for max­i­mum ef­fec­tive­ness; and there’s no cheat­ing since ev­ery­one can see how hard my heart is work­ing.

Hiit2fit’s Mean class is 45 min­utes of car­dio and strength train­ing – no two ses­sions are ever alike. Expect six min­utes of strength train­ing, then six on car­dio, rinse and re­peat for three rounds. We use dumb­bells and the TRX sus­pen­sion trainer for the for­mer, and tread­mills for the lat­ter. Go­ing by time spent in­stead of rep­e­ti­tions means that I can go at my own pace as long as my heart is work­ing hard enough – and if the ham­mer­ing in my chest is any­thing to go by, it is.

It’s hard not to con­stantly eye the screens – ev­ery­one’s keen to ‘score’ well – but for the strength rounds, our trainer says that as long as your form is good, your ex­er­cise will be ef­fec­tive and your heart rate will go up. Car­dio is eas­ier as we’re just run­ning; I’m ex­hausted but just focus on breathing and keep go­ing. When I find an ex­er­cise too hard, the trainer scales it down to some­thing man­age­able but still tough (i.e. kneel­ing in­stead of plank­ing).

It’s a to­tal body work­out and my body is jelly when we be­gin (thank­fully!) cool down stretches. The screens show that I’ve burned 143 calo­ries (“About a plate of roti canai,” says the trainer to my dis­may) and kept my heart rate high for about 80 per cent of the work­out. It’s not that much, but it’s a start – and when you get more fa­mil­iar you can burn up to 600 calo­ries in a ses­sion. Since it’s my first work­out, I’m glad I fin­ished at all!

Work­out 2: Hol­ly­wood – F45 Train­ing (www.f45­train­ing.com)

One hour. 27 sta­tions. Two cir­cuits. I’m in­tim­i­dated just look­ing this class up and ar­riv­ing at the gym to see all the equip­ment neatly spread out in the room doesn’t make me feel bet­ter. But peo­ple don’t just show up at gyms ul­tra fit, right? That’s the only thought that keeps me go­ing as the two train­ers start demon­strat­ing how to do the ex­er­cises at each sta­tion (quite a few groan at the sight of pull-ups, in­clud­ing yours truly).

F45’s Hol­ly­wood class is known as a ‘su­per cir­cuit’ and is the only class that com­bines core, strength and car­dio ex­er­cises in one ses­sion, mak­ing it the gym’s most pop­u­lar class. The for­mula is 45 sec­onds on, 15 sec­onds off; get­ting into the rhythm of mak­ing your 45 sec­onds on that ex­er­cise count and scram­bling to switch sta­tions takes prac­tise, and since I’m a first-timer, the two watch­ing train­ers of­ten stop by to cor­rect my form or show me how to do some­thing.

Other­wise, I’m left in peace to work my way through ev­ery­thing from bat­tle ropes and dumb­bells to BOSU balls and re­sis­tance bands. Screens in front keep time and play videos of how to do the ex­er­cises at each sta­tion on loop, which frees the train­ers up to mo­ti­vate (“15 sec­onds, let’s go! Come on!” is a con­stant re­frain) and help oth­ers. The pro­gramme cun­ningly in­cor­po­rates ‘rest pe­ri­ods’ in the form of lighter ex­er­cises like the bikes, so you re­cover but never stop.

There’s al­most no time to feel tired as I’m too fo­cused on mov­ing; no sooner have I started an ex­er­cise, it’s al­ready time to change. This is ex­cel­lent for peo­ple who get bored eas­ily as you only do each ex­er­cise twice, and they’re dif­fer­ent ev­ery ses­sion too. I’ll ad­mit I eased up – just a lit­tle – at points, but the short time­frame does mo­ti­vate me to try harder. Some­how, I get through it all and hap­pily re­turn “we sur­vived!” high-fives from my train­ing part­ners at the end.

Work­out 3: Freestyle Group Train­ing: Fu­sion – Fit­ness First (www. fit­ness­first.com)

For a work­ing adult like my­self, re­al­is­ti­cally the only time I can spare for ex­er­cise is in the evening, and I of­ten skip the gym be­cause I’m just too tired. The good thing about large gym chains like Fit­ness First is that they of­fer a va­ri­ety of classes to suit all needs; at just 30 min­utes long, the Freestyle Group Train­ing class sounds like just the thing for a quick work­out.

All the Freestyle Group Train­ing classes are Hiit-based, but I opt for the Fu­sion class – com­bin­ing strength and car­dio – as I pre­fer a well-rounded work­out. It’s con­ducted by a trainer in the cen­tre of the gym, and we’re di­vided into three groups. The first group starts with a car­dio ses­sion on the el­lip­ti­cal ma­chine, the sec­ond group lifts weights, and the third group does body­weight ex­er­cises. After 45 sec­onds, we switch sta­tions and grab a 15-sec­ond rest.

This class made me take a lot more re­spon­si­bil­ity for my own train­ing – the trainer taught us how to step up an ex­er­cise if it was too easy, but it was up to you to push your­self for an ef­fec­tive work­out as trainer su­per­vi­sion was limited. I al­ready had an idea of my ca­pa­bil­i­ties, so knew how hard I could go. Begin­ners might find it in­tim­i­dat­ing, es­pe­cially if un­fa­mil­iar with the cor­rect forms, and may pre­fer a smaller group for more ex­pert at­ten­tion.

After two cir­cuits, we round off the ses­sion with mini games – two mem­bers choose from a pile of cards with ex­er­cises and du­ra­tions writ­ten on them, and ev­ery­one does them to­gether. No­body’s happy when 60 sec­onds of push-ups ap­pear, but 20 sec­onds of V-lifts get some cheers – and fi­nally it’s off to the show­ers. This is a class most suited for those who go to the gym regularly, and need min­i­mal in­struc­tion and su­per­vi­sion. EL

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