How to Train When You Don’t Have the Time

HIIT Master

By Tessa Thomas

The Sled.jpg

Between work, family, commuting, having a social life and trying to eat three healthy meals a day, it can be difficult to find the time to fit a workout in. The good news is, you actually need less time than you think. The key is choosing intensity over volume, and this is where HIIT (high intensity interval training) enters the picture.1 HIIT is for you if you are looking to:

  1. Increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR)—an estimate of how many calories you burn each day at rest. In other words, by increasing your BMR you are effectively increasing the “after-burn effect” of your workout (you can calculate yours here)
  2. Preserve strength and lean muscle mass while still including cardio in your workouts
  3. Increase subcutaneous (under the skin) and abdominal body fat loss, as compared to steady-state cardio (maintaining the same pace—biking, running, walking—for a given time)
  4. Improve athletic performance by significantly increasing aerobic and anaerobic fitness
  5. Lower insulin resistance and improve glucose tolerance, (also known as stabilizing your blood sugar levels or improving your insulin sensitivity), which is correlated with having a healthy metabolism.2

What qualifies a workout as HIIT?

HIIT protocols, or workouts, can vary considerably, but generally involve repeated brief sprinting or going at an “all-out” intensity for a given exercise, immediately followed by a low-intensity interval or rest.3 The length of intervals can also vary from as little as 4 seconds to as much as 6 minutes. HIIT workouts tend to blend both cardiovascular and strength training into one sweat inducing, heart pumping, calorie burning, fun session, examples of HIIT workouts include:

  1. Peddling on a stationary bike with high resistance as fast as possible for 30 seconds, then reducing the resistance to one of the lowest settings and continuing to pedal at a moderate pace for 30, 45 or 60 seconds of recovery—this can be repeated for 20-25 minutes (Intermediate/Advanced)4
  2. Tabatas are a Japanese training protocol that fit multiple movement disciplines, pick one exercise (cycling, sprinting, squat thrusts, front squats, burpees, sled pushing etc.) and perform it as follows: as many reps as possible for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, repeat 7 more times for a total of 4 minutes for all 8 segments (Beginner: 1-2 rounds with full rest between each 4 minute round; Intermediate 3-5 rounds with full rest between each 4 minute round; Advanced 3-5 rounds with “active rest” between each 4 minute round)
  3. Jumping rope for 1 minute, resting for 15 seconds, repeating this sequence for 10 minutes (Intermediate)
  4. HIIT Circuit 1: squat jumps for 45 seconds, push-ups for 45 seconds, plank for 45 seconds, standing high knees for 45 seconds, rest 45 seconds, repeat 6 times (Intermediate)
  5. HIIT Circuit 2: jumping jacks x 30 repetitions, burpees x 20 repetitions, dips x 10 repetitions, pull-ups x 5 repetitions, tuck jumps x 3, rest 1 minute, repeat 4 times (Advanced)

There are also numerous studios that are entirely focused on delivering a complete program of HIIT workouts (ex. F45 Training* and Orange Theory Fitness). Another option is to attend HIIT classes at larger gyms (ex. Equinox’s Firestarter or Goodlife Fitness’s GRIT).

Grab Those Weights

Lastly, there are a couple of cautionary notes that should be made regarding HIIT: 

  1. As with any other type of training, it is possible to over-do it 
  2. Just because your are performing exercises at an “all-out” intensity it does not mean that form can be sacrificed

HIIT can be performed 3-5 times per week, which will allow for sufficient rest between workouts and long-term adherence to this type of training. Remember, the intention is to go “all-out,” which means that the thought of doing one more rep should be enough to stop you in your tracks, let alone the idea of performing the same workout again that day or the next.

If you do try a HIIT workout listed above, or a class, we would be happy to hear about your experience! Leave a comment below to share how it went or to reach out with a question.

*The author is affiliated with F45 Training.

1 John, Dan. Never Let Go. 63. 2009. On Target Publications.

2 Boutcher, Stephen H. “High Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss,” Journal of Obesity. 2011. doi: 10.1155/2011/868305

3 Ibid

4 Matthews, Michael. Thinner Leaner Stronger. 392. 2014. Oculus.

Disclaimer: Good Read Magazine and its contributors are not responsible in any manner for any injuries that may occur through following the instructions contained in this material; this article is solely for information and educational purposes and does not constitute medical advice. Please consult a medical or health professional before beginning any exercise, nutrition, or supplementation program.