During the last couple years HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, has totally dominated the fitness world as one of the most effective way to fire up fat loss, improve cardiovascular fitness and strength, and increase speed and lean muscle mass. Best of all, you can get this done all in one short workout. What more could you ask for? If a HIIT workout could do the laundry, I'd just marry it.
What the Heck is HIIT?
HIIT can mean anything from Tabata drills to interval training. It basically just refers to any kind of workout where you exercise very vigorously for a short burst of time (typically 20-30 seconds) followed by a brief rest (10-30 seconds). That cycle is repeated several times and then usually followed by a minute-long rest before launching into another set.
A HIIT workout can incorporate all kinds of exercises. It can be all about cardio, strength, endurance, agility, or any mix of the four. You can throw anything in there as long as it's intense enough rev up your heart rate and burn out a muscle group.
HIIT is effective because it's intense. Here's a great article from IDEA Health and Fitness Association that talks more about the science behind why HIIT works. But what happens after HIIT? Once you've worked your body so intensely, how do you safely and effectively recover?
I'm Stretching Already. Is Recovery Really Necessary?
I'm a group exercise instructor specializing in HIIT. During my hour long class, I aways incorporate a lot of plyometrics into the workout. Plyometrics is a fancy word for jump training. Jump squats, jumping lunges, and burpees are all examples of plyometrics. When you do plyometric training, your muscles contract fully, squeezing tightly and shortening as you squat to jump and launch yourself into the air. They contract just as fully, but in a different way, as you hit the ground and bend your knees to absorb the impact of your landing. All of this contracting and squeezing is great! You're burning calories, building strength and muscle, and developing speed. But after several rounds of muscle-shortening contractions, it's vital to recover to avoid injury, extreme soreness, and overtraining.
Odds are, you're stretching for 5-10 minutes after a HIIT class. But that's not really enough. Ideally, HIIT should be done a few times a week with days off for endurance cardio, weight training, and recovery.
So, How Do I Recover?
If you're unsure of how to properly recover on your own, yoga is an ideal way to stretch, strengthen, and protect your body. Adi Amar, a certified instructor on YogaToday and the owner of Teton Yoga Shala in Jackson Hole, WY says, "Yoga helps muscles to recover and shortens the duration of muscle soreness after intense workouts.
Safe, Not Sorry
One of the most important outcomes of proper recovery is keeping yourself safe. "Injury occurs when something is misaligned, or, there is a lack of awareness in what we are doing," says Amar. "Because yoga promotes strength, flexibility, balance and mental focus, it primes us to perform better in high intensity workouts. Yoga also balances our postural alignment and improves mental focus, so we are more able to protect ourselves from unnecessary injury."
Clear Eyes, Full Heart
Additionally, recovery is imperative for mental health. Intense workouts can be tough on us mentally as well as physically. If you overtrain or neglect to recover, you can increase your susceptibility to illnesses and feel irritable, exhausted, and/or depressed. But yoga is an excellent counterbalance to intense training and the hectic lifestyles many of us lead. Amar agrees. "Yoga provides better breath control, an improved ability to relax, lower blood pressure, and a slower heart rate," she says. And it gets even more science-y. Amar explains, "When practicing yoga, we learn to control our breathing and hold postures with intention and steadiness. In turn, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which allows us to relax and better manage our impulses and emotions."
So when we practice yoga on our recovery days, we're stretching tired muscles, alleviating soreness, protecting our bodies from injury, and increasing our mental clarity and focus.
Now, Go Grab That Mat!
Here are some great videos from YogaToday that would be ideal for recovery from an intense HIIT workout. Give 'em a try and start feeling better today!
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