Don’t ditch exercise during the holidays HIIT it!

Wouldn’t it be great, if you could exercise less and still get the benefits? Guess what, there is! It’s called high intensity interval training or HIIT and it’s an effective way to:

  • spend less time in the gym.
  • decrease abdominal fat and body weight.
  • lower blood pressure.
  • improve insulin sensitivity and your cholesterol profile.
  • increase aerobic and anaerobic fitness.



Workouts range from 20-40 minutes in length. How long you exercise depends on the intensity of the workout and your current fitness level. In addition to the time aspect, the great thing about HIIT is it doesn’t require investing in a lot of equipment or a gym membership. All you need is a watch. Keep in mind that while you’re decreasing your volume (total time exercising) you are increasing your intensity (how hard you work) so limit your HIIT workouts to 2-3 times a week. HIIT is not for everyone! Before diving headfirst into one of these workouts do two things.

  1. If you have a condition that’s aggravated by exercise consult your physician. Be specific, tell them exactly what you’re going to do.


  1. Develop a base fitness level: This means consistently exercising 3-5 times a week for 20-60 minutes for several weeks at an intensity level that results in cardiovascular and skeletal muscle adaptations.1


With your physicians OK and a base fitness level, you’re ready to go. As you can see in the templates below. You warm up and cool-down just like you would during any exercise session. The difference is what you do in-between which I refer to as the MAIN SET. Performing one rep of high intensity (hard activity) followed by one rep of active rest (light activity) then repeat for the listed number (anywhere from 2-10 times). What you’re doing is decreasing your volume while increasing your intensity which results in higher calorie expenditure, fat loss, improvements in cardiac function and positive changes in lipid profile and insulin sensitivity (lowers your Type II diabetes risk).



In my experience after people have established a base fitness level they become fairly adept at determining how hard they are working. So track your intensity by utilizing  your rating of perceived exertion scale (RPE) to monitor your workouts (see chart below). Your goal during the work phase of your interval is to hit an RPE of 5-8. What’s this feel like? You should be able to carry on a conversation with difficulty.

That being said if you’re new to HIIT, initially shoot for a 5. Work hard but still have some  left in the tank. After you have a few workouts under your belt then crank up your RPE to a 7 or 8.


During the rest interval continue to move if you can, your RPE should be anywhere from a 2-3 on the scale below. You can also use the talk test. Once you catch your breath you should be able to carry on a conversation without any difficulty.



Try one of the workouts below to maintain your exercise habit and your waistline during the holiday season.




Give one of these workouts a try and tell me what you think. Make sure you spend some time stretching after your workout to minimize soreness and risk of injury. Keep moving and keep visiting!

SPOILER ALERT: Starting in January 2018, I’ll be posting a daily workout to help you improve your strength and cardiovascular fitness.




  1. accessed 11/29/2017
  2. Schoenfeld B and Dawes J. High Intensity Interval Training: Applications for General Fitness Training. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 31(6): 44-46, 2009.







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