High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has become the 'new black' in the fitness world and everything from bootcamp to circuit, to yoga and Pilates formats have taken on the wave of HIIT training to encourage people to exercise and get better results in a shorter period of time. Classes on gym schedules everywhere are removing traditional workouts and replacing them with the higher level of intensity formats to keep up with the influx of social media posts of people who have achieved more in less time and the research that has undoubtedly proven the same thing.
Well according to research sources, it is between 90% to 95% maximal heart rate. This is usually calculated by either using the formula of 220 minus the age of the person and then working out a percentage of this. The other option is to get 220 minus resting heart rate, then 90% of this number and then adding in the resting heart rate back in. Either way, it is a high number. The recommended amount of time in this heart rate is anywhere between 10 seconds to 1 minute and the recovery rates also vary greatly, but tend to be 1 minute or less.
So this is where I start questioning...
I don't doubt the overwhelming proof that the research has offered re the benefits of HIIT training. In fact, I particularly advocate it for aqua exercise as there are some unique benefits of doing this type of training in the water that supersedes land based training. I do think that HIIT training requires a certain amount of mental stamina by the individual to take themselves to the required level of intensity. I wonder how many people are capable of doing this.
And...does the individual have to be able to do this every time that they want to exercise? With the shift in the fitness industry, it does appear that it has to be high intensity otherwise there is no point to even moving. I beg to differ. I think that there is a place for programs and formats that get people moving at a more moderate heart rate – and that is everyone, not just older adults. It seems unless you are going to your maximum, then why even bother? Wow – that wasn't why I got into this industry and nor is it why I stayed. I personally enjoy getting my body moving without feeling that it has to be trashed to be effective.
With the pendulum swinging so far to the side of HIIT, where is the recovery? I have learnt through my own experience that if you train hard, you must recover hard. It appears that the only recover programs available to a gym member, and I quote a sales person that I recently overheard – yoga and Pilates. What!? They are both programs that can be very intense in their own right. That is not recovery. We have a responsibility to keep our clients injury free, which also means that they need to be educated and provided the opportunities to recover appropriately.
Is there a place for moderate workouts? Most definitely yes, and these workouts allow clients the opportunity to scale the intensity to their liking. They can choose from a variety of different modifications or progressions to move at a pace that they feel comfortable with on the day. Our bodies are constantly in a state of change and what could be achieved one week, might be different the following, particularly with women and their monthly hormonal cycle. Can someone simply choose to move instead of psyching themselves for the most intense workout that they can do?
When I hear of programs called Insanity, I think, where is sanity? Where is exercise for movement and fun? Where is the workout that someone can do and feel normal the next day? Does it have to be crazy otherwise it is pointless? Let's go back to the original reason why we all got into this industry and that was to improve people's overall wellbeing and health by encouraging movement and moving well.