High intensity, low intensity
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is, as its name suggests, an intense form of exercise training. The body is pushed to its limit for a short period of time followed by a recovery interval. It is the switching between high intensity and low intensity repeatedly that gives this form of its name.
Intervals to recover from HIITRELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
The most important part of an HIIT session is going to be your recovery – both the recovery intervals as well as your recovery after the session.
If you do not give your body enough time to recover in between intervals, you may end up overtraining or worse, burning your hard earned muscle during your workout.
HIIT has been increasing popularity in the fitness community. HIIT sessions boast incredible results with little time actually spent in the gym.
A HIIT session can burn as many calories (or more!) than a traditional, steady state cardio session, but in much less time. According to an article published in Science Daily, an HIIT study did support the findings that training in HIIT sessions is just as effective as more traditional forms of cardio training, but in much less time.
Versatile training for any exercise
HIIT training can be completed with just about any exercise: running, cycling, swimming, stair climbing, rowing, and kettlebell swings just to name a few.
Because HIIT sessions will work your body in a very intense manner, it is really important to be sure you give your body adequate recovery after an HIIT session, but we will talk about how much rest is required later.
Recovery During the Session
The recovery in between high intensity intervals is an incredibly important aspect of HIIT training.
After reaching your peak heart rate for 30 seconds for example, you should decrease the intensity significantly to allow your heart rate to enter a recovery zone (usually 60-70% or so of your maximal heart rate – Maximal heart rate is calculated by taking 220 minus your age in years).
This allows your muscles to recover for the next high intensity bout as well as clear some of the lactate from your blood (lactate is what makes your muscles burn when completing a high intensity workout).
What is the recommended length of recovery?
The length of the recovery will depend on your current level of fitness: the less fit you are, the longer you will want your recovery interval to be.
Start interval training with a 1:3 work: rest ration, meaning you will take three times as much time completing your recovery interval than you do your high intensity interval.
Example: If you complete a high intensity interval for 30 seconds, you would want to take at least 90 seconds of recovery before your next high intensity interval. As you become more fit, decrease the amount of recovery in between high intensity bursts to ramp up your workouts.
Keeping an eye on your heart rate
You will notice as your fitness improves, your heart rate will drop much more quickly than it did before. This is a good sign and shows that your cardiorespiratory fitness is adapting to your training.
If you find that you are having a hard time getting your heart rate drop to recovery levels during a workout, it may mean that you are overtraining. You may have pushed a little too hard during the session, or you may be nearing overtraining.
Back off from the intervals or decrease your intensity for a week or so, and you should see a significant improvement.
Recovery After the Session
Just as it is important to have the recovery intervals during your HIIT sessions, it is just as important to make sure you are giving your body ample recovery in between actual sessions. HIIT sessions are intense work.
It is important that you give your body the time to recovery in between them to ensure you are not overtraining. If you are completing HIIT sessions more than 2-3 times per week, you may be overtraining. As a general rule, you want to give yourself at least a day of rest in between HIIT sessions.
If you have just begun training with HIIT, you may want to start with only one day per week to allow your body to get used to the new type of training.
Listen to the signs of your body
If you begin to feel burnt out or unusually drained by your sessions, or your heart rate is having trouble reaching the peak interval or recovering after a high intensity interval, it may be time to dial back the training a bit.
Allow your body to rest and recover by completing steady state cardio for a few days until you are feeling energized again. Then slowly begin to add interval training back in, using a recovery interval that is slightly longer than what you were doing prior.
Easing your body back into intervals is the best way to avoid overtraining and injury.
Methods of Recovery
I love using alternate methods of training to help me recover after an intense HIIT session.
I love to go hiking or using an easy swim as a recovery day. Even just taking the dogs for a long walk is a great way to recover after an intense HIIT session.
To avoid overtraining, try to vary your HIIT session modalities as well as the modes you use to recover.
Example: If you completed a HIIT session running hill intervals, try not to use an easy run to recover the next day. Instead try a swimming workout or the elliptical trainer. Keep your body guessing and don’t forget to stretch!
I hope this article helped you to understand recovery during and after HIIT sessions. Now get your SWEAT on and don’t forget to allow your body to recover to get the most out of your HIIT workouts!
Read more from Expert Sarah Walentynowicz.