HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) revisited for Christmas

HIIT and lifting weights slow and heavy are my two go to's when it comes to gym time for myself and my personal training transformation clients. For my own workouts, I get in there, loving it for as short and effective time as possible and include as much mobility and yoga-like stretching as I can be bothered to do ;)

I'm sure you've seen blog posts about HIIT before, and there are some fantastic posts out there, the difference with this one is aim going to show you some insights into the problems with HIIT too and also some of the HIIT protocols that people are using.

HIIT training, London (Regents Park)

Benefits of HIIT:

1) HIGHLY Effective at fat burning and conditioning (when done correctly and safely)

2) Can get great results in a very short period of time.

3) Can be done in a hotel room (in a small space)

4) No Gym needed (burpees, sprints, push ups, mountain climbers)

Risks of HIIT:

1) Risk of over-training / under-resting (I did this, frying my nervous system)

2) Injury. Warming up and mobility is a key part of HIIT. Hamstrings and shoulders (rotor cuffs) are key risk areas

3) Not eating right for HIIT. HIIT is effective, so you make sure you're well fueled and nourished I'd suggest taking a look at your food intake.

4) If recovering from workouts / you're already fatigued then HIIT could further deplete you and you may need to address your adrenals, nervous system and other lifestyle habits such as drinking, smoking and SLEEP quality first.

HIIT survival tips:

1) DIGESTION.  This is number 1 for GOOD reason.  If you are not digesting your food properly and assimilating the nutrients then you're body is probably not getting the macro nutrients and MICRO nutrients it needs to recover. This is perhaps the most important tip of all.

2) Get your form and the exercises right (and choose the right exercises) sprints, watt bike, burpees, air squats, push ups, jumping jacks, jump rope are generally considered good for HIIT.

3) Once or twice per week to give your body chance to rest and recover AND do it in phases, i.e a few weeks of HIIT and then a few weeks of NO HIIT.

4) Get your eating right. This is CRITICAL for a healthy life. Finding and cutting your allergens (maybe it's wheat, soy, gluten, beans, processed meats, sugars...) fine tuning your eating is a lifetime of trial and error because you are always changing.

5) Meditation and relaxing. Doing the opposite of HIIT can help maintain balance in your body and soul. Sit still for 5 minutes and focus simply on breathing in and out of your nose that's all for now.

6) Sleep. Quality sleep is key. Dark room, uninterrupted , slightly cool, phones off and out of the room/ away from the bed because all of the above can affect the quality of your rest and recovery.

7) Using stimulants (especially artificial stimulants).  Those little f**kers might give you the boost to get through your workout, but at what physical cost? Take a break from stimulants, help your body find it's normal state again.

8) Acupuncture.  It's scientifically proven to help balance the nervous system, I've been receiving treatments for about 4 years, it will always be a part of my life now.

9) Massage. Monthly or every couple of weeks is ideal. do a trade swop if it's too expensive. When I say massage I mean really deep sports massage or Thai massage. If you can book 3 or 4 within 2 weeks and notice how your back and legs feel completely different. For me it feels like having a huge resistance removed.

10) Eat foods that support your lifestyle. For most people, the environment we live in today is not the same as it was before and so I've taken the liberty of eating to meet the environment. Foods, roots and herbs that support and nourish my immune and nervous system and also foods and beverages that support healthy digestion. Chaga and reishi are my two favorite mushrooms for immunity and my nervous system. This Smoothie book awesome recipes and deeper information.

Find your balance

If you're smashing the gym, perhaps doing HIIT or Crossfit, then I highly recommend finding a opposite balance for this.  When I was training Muay Thai Boxing in Thailand I really got into HIIT.  My condition was out of this world (check this photo from when I landed in Perth, Australia after 6 weeks Muay Thai) BUT i carried on. I kept doing HIIT almost daily. And for me, and maybe you too, it just wasn't sustainable, I was not getting enough rest and letting my nervous system rest enough. I later qualified as a personal trainer and learned all about the all important loading and de-loading (i.e training hard in a specific way then not training in that way)

 After 6 weeks Muay Thai in Thailand, photo actually taken in Perth after smashing a  smoothie!

After 6 weeks Muay Thai in Thailand, photo actually taken in Perth after smashing a smoothie!

Now let's take a little look at some HIIT options:

TABATA Protocol:

High Interval Intensity Training (HIIT) is a highly effective way of training for fat burning that can take as little as 11 minutes (including warm up) and has the capability to transform the human body after only a small number of sessions. The protocol?


• 5 minutes of warm-up
• 8 intervals of 20 seconds all-out intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest
• 2 minutes cool-down


Bike sprints, running sprints, squats, burpees, jump rope are all good exercises for tabata.
Find the time to do this in the morning to get your body set up for feeling awesome! The science?

Mark Sisson PRIMAL Workout

Mark spoke at the 2016 Bullet Proof Conference, and afterwards I did quick interview with him.  one stage he spoke or HIIT workout including a longer rest period which seems to make sense.  It was 30 seconds on 90 seconds rest. I like that in a way because it allows for more recovery before pushing your hardest again.

Mark's Weekly Plan is interesting and good for recovery / fun:

Monday – Sprint
Tuesday – Lift Heavy Things
Wednesday – Move Slowly, Play or Rest
Thursday – HIIT
Friday – Move Slowly, Play or Rest
Saturday – Lift Heavy Things
Sunday – Move Slowly, Play or Rest

(I'd add some yoga and massage in there too).

Other ways to include HIIT in your workout:

1) Circuits. Yep, good old circuits are HIIT when done properly. Choose 2 to 10 exercises and loop them.  30 to 45 second 'on' the change exercises. 2 to 5 repeats of the whole circuit and hey presto, you're done!

2) Boxing. Almost all types of boxing naturally includes HIIT. You hit the combo then rest, hit the combo rest...  And it's fun!

3) Sports.  Basket ball, tennis, squash, football... they all include HIIT if you're not into the gym.

 Photo shoot by James McClure, LA

Photo shoot by James McClure, LA

If you're looking for a Personal Trainer (PT) in London particularly in the Canary Wharf area, who is good with HIIT, fat burning, and also trains people for triathlons and long distance endurance events, I highly recommend Rob Jackson (Purpose Fit). When I'm in London we always train together, he's one of the truly authentic personal trainers around who walks the walk (and he's a top bloke).