You Don’t Know HIIT

Yesterday, Timbo (aka Dr. Timothy Miller) added a comment to one of my older HIIT posts – HIIT v.s. Type 2 Diabetes.

Since it was an older post, most of you wwill never see his comment. And that would be a shame, because Tim’s description of a real HIIT workout was fantastic:

I’ve been doing HIIT workouts about four times per week for three weeks now. I do it on the elliptical trainer at the gym. (The stationary bike tends to hurt my knee.) I can go harder on the stair master, because I’m using my upper body at the same time as my legs. I warm up for about five minutes at modest speed and resistance, then turn up the resistance really high and go AS HARD AS I CAN for 30 seconds, then go slow and easy for five to ten minutes, and repeat, until I have done four high-intensity intervals. I go slow and easy for about five minutes to cool down. 25 to 30 minutes total.

When I say I go “as hard as I can,” this is what I mean. On a Life Fitness model 9500 elliptical trainer, I’m at level 18 at 80 to 90 rpm. This is equivalent to a rate 2000 calories per hour.

I’m a type-2 diabetic, 60 years old. The last two times I checked, I started the workout with blood glucose of 140 to 150. After the workout, it was down to about 70. I’ve had to reduce my insulin dose.

I’m hoping I will reduce my insulin need, and maybe won’t need insulin at all. (I don’t use oral meds.) Time will tell. I believe none of what I hear and half of what I see.

All the ecstatic blog posts and articles forget to mention one thing: These workouts are exhausting! Very exhausting. After each interval, I feel like I might faint and fall off the machine. I remain winded for about five minutes after each one. I’m physically tired for at least an hour after I leave the gym. I was already fairly fit. I’ve been doing fairly regular cardio and strength exercises for years. Maybe I’ll get used to these workouts after awhile.

HIIT is all about the effort – Full out 100% total exhaustion effort.

So, the next time you do a HIIT workout, you NEED to ask yourself…Am I giving 100% effort?

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  1. Don’t forget the euphoric feeling you get, for me it’s usually right at the end of my workouts. I feel tired (sometimes even shaking) but great overall, everything is brighter; it’s just a nice little boost in my overall feeling/mood for the next few hours. I have read testosterone and growth hormone is greatly increased after a training session like this; perhaps that is what it is.

    Now that I have been doing HIIT for a while, I can’t imagine not doing it as part of a regular program. You get so much bang for your buck, and it’s one of those rare exercises that I feel I connect to my more primal side while doing, it’s very fun!

    Oh yeah one more thing, it’s also great for mental toughness. If you’re not mentally prepared to push through the workout you won’t last or you will lower your intensity to more of a interval training level rather than high intensity interval training. In as much I find it’s a great training tool for learning how to push harder, find that inner mental toughness, and develop your overall inner strength. My first HIIT session was barely 5 minutes and I thought I was going to pass out afterwards, now my sessions can run as long as 30 minutes. That’s a lot of progress but a huge part of that was just developing the mindset that it was even possible to do in the first place.


  2. The trick is to know what your 100% is- often, this is not possible with sprint intervals that last beyond 20 secs. An elliptical should help in that, but I now think doing intervals with kettlebell swings beats everything. It is one way of doing a strength and conditioning workout together. Once you start, you feel everything else comes second place. Seriously. What do you think?

  3. Thats a great point, as you progress with HIIT you will most likely need to change it up in order to keep progressing. Doug helped me with that by switching from 20s/30s intervals down to 10s intervals (10s all out, 20s rest, repeat). It is a lot easier to gauge your 100% when you only have 10s to do it in, however I think this is a totally different workout than the 20s or 30s intervals, I think its much tougher because 20s is not much rest time, the first time I did HIIT that way it was almost like doing HIIT for the first time all over again.

    But even with 10s, I am starting to reach the limit of what my elliptical can provide, I have been on max resistance for a long time already. Typically my full on intervals I had been reaching 180-190 bpm, lately its shifted down to 170-180 range which is still probably technically HIIT as its around 90% max HR, but I am just saying the workout has gotten easier and you can only go so fast on a machine before the natural stride length or makeup of it will start to impact your performance.

    I have never done HIIT with kettlebells but I did do Dougs HIRT routine, I found a new max HR on that day 😛 Thats probably the direction I will go next, a mixture of machine HIIT, weights lifting HIIT, body weight/movement HIIT, etc… all stacked together. Like you say strength and conditioning combined is very nice. Maybe that way I could squeeze in a strength workout 3x per week and still get my HIIT.


  4. I agree that HIITs over 20 seconds are probably impossible at full intensity. But, then again, maybe Doc Miller is an anatomical anomaly capable of superhuman ATP regeneration.

    Re kettlebell swings…love ’em. This triple-extension move requires a huge % of muscular involvement and as a result, should induce a massive increase in EPOC.

    Great exercise and perfectly suited to HIIT/HIRT workouts.

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