Swim. Bike. Run. Repeat. As a triathlete, my workouts consist of those three disciplines. I'm determined every racing season to improve my times, so I focus on swimming, biking and running all year long. Frankly, with work, family and other obligations, there's no time for anything else.
This year I decided to try something different to shake up my training: high-intensity interval training, or HIIT.
What is HIIT? It’s a type of training where you give 100 percent effort in a short period of time, followed by a short recovery period. It could be intense for 1 minute, 50 seconds with a 10-second break or 30 seconds of hard work followed by a 30-second break.
The HIIT workout shouldn’t last longer than 15 to 20 minutes. If you have energy when you’re done, you’re not working hard enough.
Wintertime is the perfect time for me to try it. Triathlon training isn't as intense in the winter, and I always spend the first month or two in the spring trying to lose the weight I gained over the winter – something else I want to change.
I do HIIT three times a week with trainer Tim Gorham of Style Fitness and Nutrition in Omaha. The warm-up alone about kills you. We often do high-knees, sprints and mountain climbers. (To do a mountain climber, you get into a push-up position and alternate bringing your knees toward your chest.)
Then the core of the workout begins. It's different every time, which I like. It varies a mix of sprints, strength training and body weight exercises, such as push-ups and squats. This type of training gets and keeps your heart rate up and has the potential to burn more fat in less time, Gorham said.
Gorham also said HIIT helps you perform better, no matter what you're doing. “When your mind realizes how much your body can do in these short bursts, you may have a better chance of transferring that mindset into other areas of fitness, “ he said.
During my first session, I did push-ups, sit-ups, squat jumps, mountain climbers, alternating jump lunges and body-builders – an exercise that involves doing a jumping jack, moving to the floor and doing a push-up. I tried to do as many reps as I could in one minute for each exercise.
I reassessed after four weeks and again at the end of eight weeks. After four weeks, I doubled the number of push-ups I could do, tripled my squat jumps and lunges and improved my sit-ups, body-builders and mountain climbers. At the end of the eight week session, even more improvement: I've not gained any weight, I'm stronger and have more toned muscles.
Gorham said there's another added benefit to this type of workout: "A quick burst of exercise helps the body burn calories over a longer period of time after the exercise has stopped," he said.
I'm hooked. HIIT is part of my triathlon training plan now. I can't wait to see how this changes my performance.