We tend to be an industry of all or nothing. “No pain, no gain.” “Just do it!” “Go Big or go home!” That’s true whether we’re talking the platitudes of so-called inspiration or in how we see programming. I remember early in my career thinking that the guidelines had to be followed. ACSM said you had to do cardio 3-5 times per week, resistance training 2-3 times per week, etc, and if you didn’t, you just weren’t committed to getting healthier. Over the years, I learned that anything more than you were currently doing, was beneficial and that the attitude of “there’s no point if you’re not giving it 100%” was sadly misguided and likely to chase away many of the people that needed our help.
My current pet peeve is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). It’s hugely popular and very effective, (and I use it with clients regularly) BUT… it’s pushed out onto the population with the expectation that, if you aren’t close to throwing up, you’re wasting your time. I beg to differ.
First, we need to recognize that high intensity does not mean doing special “HIIT exercises”. High intensity is about the challenge level not a particular exercise. One doesn’t need to do Burpees to be working at high intensity. Walking briskly may be high intensity if someone hasn’t been doing it.
Second, HIIT is not fun. That kind of discomfort, even with the shorter time duration, can turn people off of wanting to exercise if they are not used to it.
Third, HIIT comes with risk. The higher the intensity the higher the risk. Is taking that risk worth hitting a designated % of your VO2 max? Like resistance training and cardiovascular training, HIIT should be built up to.
Let’s talk SHIIT…. Slightly Higher Intensity Interval Training (Yes, I know. It makes me laugh too.). You can start teaching people what intervals are all about and have them begin them utilizing an only slightly greater speed than is normal for them. Let them get acclimated as to what higher intensity is all about and gradually work them up to higher levels. Say you’re using the Tabata protocol, count the number of repetitions, or meters, or watts that your clients or students can do at a moderate challenge level. If there are no repercussions from that bout(s), the next training day you can have them do a few more or go a little farther. Continue gradually increasing until they are truly going at a high intensity level. SHIIT will help new people get used to doing something a little harder than they have been, not to mention giving them time to nail the form of the activity.
The point is that HIIT, like other fitness guidelines, is something that can be a goal for clients, but shouldn’t be where we start them. We need to meet them where they are and gradually bring them along until fitness becomes part of their lives.
So, are you ready to do some SHIIT? (snort!)