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Ester Marsh: Are you willing to try some HIIT?

High Intensity Interval Training, or  HIIT, is a form of interval training that is characterized by near maximum efforts.

You read this, and you think, “This is for young people or athletes.”

I am certified, and a member through the American College of Sports medicine and receive these awesome ACSM’s Health & Fitness journals. They include the latest training trends, research and so much more. The September/October issue came in and once again offered a bunch of positive feedback on HIIT.

From the elderly to the obese, HIIT can help improve mental health and cognitive function while easing hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic disease and more.

Solid research has shown that high intensity interval training is successful.

Two things, check with your doctor first if HIIT is for you. Second, work on your heart rate and/or perceived exertion.

As a 55-year-old myself, I deduct 220-55=165. That’s my maximum heart rate (MHR). For HIIT training, I could do something like this after a good warm up: 1 minute at 85% of my MHR, which for me is around 140 beats per minute (BPM) then 1 minute at about 107 BPM.

Your fitness level lets you know how many sets you do, or what kind of intervals you choose. In my classes, even with my older active adults and water exercise, I like to throw in HIIT and we typically do 20 seconds of intense, 10 seconds of rest for eight sets and 1 minute recover. We do anywhere from five to 10 big sets.

In group exercise classes, we typically do not wear a heart strap. Of course, with all the many gadgets out there you can set your watch to let you know where your heart rate is during the exercise.

However, if you keep looking at your  watch, it does not help your workouts (it’s great for longer distances and feedback afterwards). So, I always tell my class participants and clients to listen to your body.

How do you perceive the workout is going? You know when you are ready to “pass out” and it’s too much. When you are not doing enough, you continuously can talk through your workout.

I like to use the one to 10 scale, at 10 it’s my max and at 1 it’s my rest. Around 85% would be an 8 ½ and a 6 ½ would be 65%.

Especially when you are on certain medicines or have a pacemaker, you must go by perceived exertion (after your doctor says it’s OK to try HIIT and you explain what you are wanting to do).

Most of the time we hear HIIT we think burpees, jumping jacks, mountain climbers and so on. But HIIT can also be performed in the pool by swimming one length as fast as you can, one length slowly and then rest.

Work your way up in sets and decrease rest the better you get. Or on the stationary bike, go 1 minute at 85% HR (fast) and 1 minute at 65% HR (slower). How about the treadmill? Try 30 seconds jog/run, 1 minute walk or 1 minute on a 10% incline, 2 minutes on flat. Or speed walk for the length of the track/ gym and recover walk on the short ends.

Most of the time your total time for safety and effectiveness of HIIT is around 30 minutes and I would start with once a week maybe working up to two or three times a week depending how your body adapts and feels during and after the workout.

There are many ways to do High Intensity Interval Training safely and effectively. But always listen to your body and remember, it’s your journey!

Ester H. Marsh is Health & Fitness Director JF Hurley Family YMCA.

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