Why too much HIIT training could be doing you more harm than good


It’s the workout of the minute but it could be wreaking havoc on your health. Here’s why you should take a break – and four workouts you should do instead. 

Photo: iStock

There’s no doubt that HIIT has been trending for the past few years. It’s become incredibly popular for good reason – after all, there are so many benefits.

Studies have shown that high intensity exercise is more effective for burning kilojoules than typical cardio (treadmill, stationary biking, etc) because HIIT forces the body into an anaerobic state. In this state, our bodies rely on burning available carbohydrates to perform the exercises rather than oxygen. When you are performing in high intensity mode, your body is usually working at its full capacity.

However the concept of ‘everything in moderation’ applies to many things in life, including high intensity training. In fact, if you push your body to the max too frequently it may break down due to having excess stress which in turn may develop into high inflammation. Why? Because HIIT workouts are designed to push you to the max to cause your muscles and cardiovascular system to adapt, however as with anything, too much stress becomes distress so it’s important to recover accordingly when training at this intensity.

While fitness marketing would have you believe that HIIT training is the only way to achieve your goals, it’s important to realise that movement integrity workouts such as yoga, specific strength training and animal flow are beneficial as well, especially for longevity. As a general rule of thumb, try to keep HIIT sessions to no more than 3x per week and try incorporating these lower intensity movements into your routine as well.

Here are some alternative ways you can get your heart rate up that don’t involve burpees, intervals or stationary movements:

Obstacle Courses

Sure they are tough, and they require at least a bit of running, but your body will be hyper stimulated throughout the entire course.

If you are after something tough, but not as risky as Tough Mudder, try Beach Bash or if you want a female-only course, Miss Muddy is good, too.

Yoga

By practicing yoga on a regular basis, you will get your heart rate up, improve your flexibility and reduce injury risk to a great extent. According to a study by the American Council on Exercise, it was found that regular practice of Hatha yoga significantly improved the subjects flexibility, muscular strength, endurance and balance. After 8 weeks, the group improved their flexibility by 13% to 35%.

Because yoga involves holding poses for an extended period of time, building strength is embedded in the experience. Depending on the class, you are constantly flowing into the next movement, so yoga is also great for balance, flexibility, mobility and mental endurance. All of which are needed if you were to be participating in any endurance event or having to lift a very heavy weight.

Spin

Cycling classes can be one of the most challenging cardio workouts while still being low intensity, just be prepared to get sweaty!

Hybrid Workouts

A hybrid workout combines two different training styles in the one session, allowing you to benefit from both in the hour that you have designated to train.

A good hybrid training session ensures the workout combinations maximize the benefits of each other. For example, in Flow Athletic’s STRIKE class (spin x strength) the spin component boosts your heart rate, engages your core, works your legs and kicks off the calorie burn before you even start the strength element of the workout. Strength training will then help you burn fat for up to 38 hours post workout, particularly if weights are involved.

Furthermore, you are more likely to train harder in the second part of the session because you are doing something completely new and therefore should be less burnt out.

At the end of the day, though, it’s all about finding a balance of what works for you – so make sure to schedule in some rest days, light movement and, of course, maintain a balanced diet. It’s a constant work in progress, we know.

Ben Lucas is a personal trainer, fitness expert and the owner and co-founder of Flow Athletic.

You’ve heard of yoga and a beer with mates at the pub – now you can combine the two with beer yoga in Brisbane.



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