Shannon Fable by Shannon Fable

Have you heard of HIIT? If not, it’s time to take a look at the workout format that’s sweeping the nation. The acronym stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and the best part of it is there are no new exercises or equipment to master. You can simply apply the concept of HIIT to your tried and true favorites like running or cycling, or perhaps go back to old school, easy-to-master movements and simply up the ante!

HIIT is a type of training that begs exercisers to go hard or go home, regardless of the activity. The best news is if you’re strapped for time, HIIT has been proven to not only torch calories but also enhance your aerobic capacity without the long, sometimes boring workouts. Perfect for the busy exerciser that knows they need it but can’t find the time, but not for the faint of heart. HIIT requires you to push your limits!

HIIT is a training protocol that involves repeated bouts of high intensity exercise followed by short periods of recovery. The work-to-rest ratios can come in all shapes and sizes but if you’re hoping for maximum benefits, you must be willing to work hard. The good news is it doesn’t have to last long to be effective. Phew!

What You’ll Need

HIIT workouts can take place just about anywhere with almost any equipment (or none at all). All you’ll need is a bit of open space, a timing device and a plan.

Location: You can do a HIIT workout anywhere you have space, and they’re perfect for travel. You can easily perform a workout in your hotel room, outdoors at a park or anywhere you think you can get away with it! Start by checking the surrounding area for uneven surfaces or anything else that may not be fun to land on with your hands or feet.

Equipment Suggestions: There are several exercise options that will allow you to do a HIIT workout anywhere and require no equipment! If you have equipment handy, some favorites are weighted bars, hand weights, medicine balls or kettlebells, all choices that easily add resistance to lower body movements and intensify quickly. Just be careful to keep the equipment out of your way if it’s not in use and monitor form to ensure safety. Benches or steps with risers can also take floor movements to the next level (literally). A simple march on the floor that moves on and off of an elevated surface will increase intensity with no fuss or complication. And, of course, HIIT can be layered on a walking, running or cycling workout by increasing your speed.

Note: Be cautious when using unstable surfaces during intervals. Products like stability balls, balance trainers and the like are fantastic tools, but if you are not yet skilled in using the equipment, the intensity level may suffer as you try to stay balanced.

Tools: Once you have an idea of the exercises you want to do, the last thing you’ll need is a timing device. Of course, a clock with a second hand or a stop watch will do just fine. It’s always easier to have the clock or watch mounted somewhere other than your wrist so you can easily see it (rather than continuing to look down as you’re huffing and puffing). One inexpensive solution is the Tabata Pro app ($2.99 in iTunes App Store). The app will allow you to set different interval timing ratios, recovery periods, number of intervals and even add playlists.

Many people believe you need a heart rate monitor to make HIIT workouts effective, but as long as you’re willing to get real about how hard you’re breathing and pay attention to how you’re feeling, the Talk Test will do just fine. You can also use the zone chart below for easy monitoring. Remember, to reap the benefits of HIIT, you MUST be willing to take the intervals to the highest of high, which means as hard as you can work and still keep going!

Intensity Monitoring*

Zone Description Notes
1 Easy Conversational
2 Moderate Sentences (7-10 words)
3 Hard Phrases (3-5 words)
4 Breathless No more words!

(*adapted from the Schwinn Indoor Cycling program)

Here’s a sample HIIT workout that will take you LESS than 30 minutes with no equipment required. Just grab some wide open space, a timer, a water bottle and a towel.

Section Total Time Work / Rest Timing Ratio Intensity
Preparation/Warm-Up 5 min   Zone 1→2→Edge of 3
Interval #1 4 min :20 / :10 x 8 rounds Zone 4 / Zone 2
Recovery 3 min   Zone 1→2→Edge of 3
Interval #2 4 min :20 / :10 x 8 rounds Zone 4 / Zone 2
Recovery 3 min   Zone 1→2→Edge of 3
Interval #3 4 min :20 / :10 x 8 rounds Zone 4 / Zone 2
Recovery 3 min   Zone 1→2
Stretch 3 min   Zone 1


The first 4 minutes should progress slowly and gently bring your heart rate up by the 5-minute mark. You should go from being able to talk comfortably to where you are on the verge of working hard. You want to be ready to go toward breathless within 20 seconds of finishing the warm-up. Try exercises such as walking, light jogging (in place if you have to), jumping jacks, knee hugs, hamstring curls, side shuffles, traveling squats and lunges.

Interval 1

Exercise 1: Speed Skate (for round # 1, 3, 5, & 7)Speed Skate
Leap to the side and land on outside leg; touch trail leg down next to landing leg or behind the landing leg. To increase the intensity, simply increase the range of motion or speed up the leaps.

Exercise 2: “Icky Shuffle” (for round # 2, 4, 6, & 8)
Icky Shuffle

Move side to side with a 1-2-3 rhythm. Hop out and onto lead leg (right leg), then bring the trail leg into the lead leg (left leg), and finish with another leap out to the side onto the lead leg (right leg) with trail leg lifted in the air (left leg).

Interval 2

Exercise 1: Sprinter Pulls (Right) (for round # 1, 3, 5, & 7)
Sprinter Pulls

Exercise 2: Sprinter Pulls (Left) (for round # 2, 4, 6, & 8)
Sprinter Pulls
Begin in a shallow lunge position with the right leg back. Pull the right leg into a knee lift and simultaneously drive power up. Increase intensity by increasing range of motion in the lunge (progressing to right leg being long in the back and right hand touching the floor) or by adding amplitude (left leg leaving the floor during the knee lift).

Interval 3

Exercise 1: High-Knee Runs (for round # 1, 3, 5, & 7)
High-Knee Runs
Jog in place with knees coming up high as you do. To bump up the intensity, increase the range of motion of the jog or simply move a little bit faster.

Exercise 2:  Wide Burpees (for round # 2, 4, 6, & 8)
Wide Burpees Begin with legs wide (much like a plié squat), and have hands come to ground, jump legs back into plank position, then move legs back out wide before standing up and bringing feet together. To increase the intensity, you can speed up the movement or add a jump to the finish (when legs come together) and arms overhead. Of course, the burpee is challenging even without jumping. You can also decrease the impact on the joints by walking hands down, walking legs back into plank, walking legs out wide and then walking the legs in.


In between intervals, perform an active recovery. Walk around, grab a drink of water and begin rehearsing the next movement. It’s imperative that you bring your heart rate down before beginning the next cycle of intervals.


Take a few minutes to stretch the major muscles of the upper and lower body as you finish your recovery. Remember to hydrate and take time off between intense interval sessions.

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