Research shows that high-intensity interval training (referred to as simply “HIIT” for short) provides a number of positive health benefits beyond just losing weight and gaining muscle. Among them, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, are a stronger cardiovascular system, healthier blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and improved insulin sensitivity. So why aren’t more people engaging in this type of exercise? Because it’s hard!
Of course, one could guess that HIIT isn’t going to be easy solely based on the first two words: high-intensity. And that it is. Even if you’re in relatively decent shape, HIIT has a way of helping you realize that you still have a ways to go before your fitness goals will be reached. It reminds you through your heart beating nearly out of your chest and the buckets of sweat pouring down your body that you’re going to have to keep working hard if you want to fit into those skinny jeans, achieve that small waist size, or reach whatever goal it is you’ve set for yourself.
So, what can you do to make HIIT easier? Well, you certainly don’t want to decrease its intensity because that would render it less effective and take away some, if not all, of its positive health benefits I just discussed. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can do to make it easier in the sense of being more enjoyable, or more palatable to your mind. Below are five tips to consider when performing high-intensity interval training!
Tip #1: Perform HIIT To Music
In late 2016, the Journal of Sports Sciences published a study which assessed the impact that music played during exercise has on a person’s feelings toward that workout. In total, there were 20 individuals who participated in the study, none of which had engaged in HIIT-type training before. Each person did one HIIT session with music and one session without. After studying the results, researchers found that the music helped the participants stay positive throughout the HIIT session, even though the workouts were fairly intense.
This study suggests that if you want to make HIIT easier to do mentally, all you have to do is play music while doing it. Ideally, you want to choose tunes that invigorate and energize you. Load up your favorite artist or playlist and let the tunes guide you through a tough, yet more enjoyable workout.
Not sure what that type of music sounds like? Best American Workout Music offers a YouTube video of what they feel are the best workout songs, so you might want to check it out and see if there are any there that you like (or you can just play the video every time you exercise if you determine that you like them all!).
Tip #2: Make HIIT Work Better With Your Schedule
One of the top excuses people use for not exercising is that they don’t have time. It’s not very surprising since our days just keep getting more and more packed with work, family, home, and community obligations. Just when is someone supposed to find time to fit in an exercise plan, even if it’s really good for you?
Fortunately, HIIT is easier to implement into a schedule than most other options, primarily because the sessions are already shorter in nature than the typical consistent, moderate-intensity exercise programs you see today. However, there’s even more you can do to make HIIT fit into your schedule with more ease. You can take classes on demand.
If you have to go somewhere to take a HIIT class, this means that you have to grab your gear, physically get into your vehicle, and drive to the location (passing all of the fast food joints along the way, you know, the ones that are calling your name). This is three more steps than necessary, all of which take even more time than you’d have to take if you opted for online HIIT classes instead.
CrossFit.com does this with their WODs (workouts of the day), giving their viewers easy access to workouts they can do whenever they fit into their schedule best. Other companies, like the well-known Les Mills, offer online high intensity interval training classes, making it possible to improve your fitness and your health without even having to leave your home. It really doesn’t get any easier than that!
Tip #3: Create Visual Measures of Your Progress
When it comes to exercising regularly, whether with HIIT or some other type of workout regimen, motivation naturally wanes. Even if you start out all gung-ho and ready to take the world by storm, inevitably, within a couple of weeks or months, you feel like you’re literally dragging your body to your workout sessions, fighting the urge to go sit on the couch or hang out with friends instead.
To overcome this, it helps to create visual measures of your progress. Take pictures of yourself from the front, side, and back on the day you start doing HIIT (or now if you’ve already started) and then retake them every month or two. Place them side by side and you will visually see how much you’ve transformed your physique for the better, motivating you to keep moving forward.
Once you actually see the changes your body is making as a result of your dedication and determination, you may even find that you look forward to your HIIT sessions because you know the positive impact they’re having on you. If you’re gutsy enough, you could also post them on your social media, motivating others to make positive changes too.
As a side note, if you tend to be camera shy, you don’t have to just rely on pictures to show you that you’re making progress. You can also take measurements of various parts of your body, like your waist, hips, biceps, and thighs. And because HIIT has been found to provide benefits to your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, you could also keep track of those numbers too in order to show you how your overall health is being impacted by your exercise program.
Tip #4: Call For Back-Up
Have you ever been about ready to give up on something, only to have a close family member or friend arrive and breathe newfound energy into it, encouraging you to keep going instead? Having someone like this in your corner can make whatever you’re doing much more enjoyable, and HIIT is no exception.
The best option is to have this person do HIIT workouts with you because then you have a partner-in-crime of sorts (sorry for the police-related terms, but I did spend 15 years in law enforcement so it kind of comes naturally). You both know exactly how each other feels because you’re going through it together. It makes it easier to keep going because you know you’re not alone in this.
Alternatively, if you don’t have someone to do HIIT with, you can still use other people’s support to help you continue with your training so you can eventually enjoy the benefits that come with higher levels of fitness. In his book Live Your YOUlogy, motivational speaker Red Katz refers to this person as an “accountability buddy”. This is someone who will essentially make sure you do your workouts like you said you would, enabling you to better hit your goals.
Red’s one major suggestion is to pick someone who will be honest with you and push you to take the actions you said you’ll take (stay away from family members). This can make showing up to your HIIT sessions easier because you know someone is going to be checking on you, holding you accountable. No more dodging your workout program because no one will know.
Tip #5: Don’t Make It a Choice
If you make your HIIT sessions a choice, something that you tell yourself that you can do or not do, then of course it’s going to be difficult to do the right thing because doing HIIT is hard. This means that you’ll likely talk yourself out of it before you even start.
You can bypass this entire issue by not making HIIT a choice. Commit to doing it, preferably without thought, the same way you commit to taking care of your kids or going to work. You don’t have an option when it comes to those obligations, so quit looking at this as if it is a choice too.
Before you object, saying that looking after your family and earning an income are non-negotiable but exercise isn’t, think again. You don’t have to take good care of your kids; you choose to. You also don’t have to go to work every day, but you choose to do that as well.
You could realistically quit doing both of these today if you wanted. Yes, you may not be able to sleep tonight or look yourself in the mirror in the morning, but the point is that you consider these non-choices, which means that you do them automatically and without that internal struggle associated with them being a choice. This is exactly how you want to view your HIIT program too. Don’t make it a choice. In the words of Nike, “Just do it.”
Without a doubt, high-intensity interval training is one of the most grueling exercise programs there is. That being said, there are a few things that you can do to make it easier to do, and these are just five that I have covered in this article. Do them and you’ll be happy you did!