by Leigh Ann Thomas, Certified Personal Trainer

When life gets busy, your exercise program is sometimes the first to go from your priority list.  However, exercise, and health in general, should always be your top priorities.  Taking care of your family, working a full-time job, and volunteering at your kids’ school or church requires a lot of energy. When you’re not in your best shape, then how can you expect to handle all that’s expected of you?

If you find yourself sacrificing your workouts simply because you don’t have the time, then you may need to re-evaluate how you’re working out. You don’t have to spend an hour or two working out, and you certainly do not have to work out at a gym. In as little as 10 minutes, you can perform a high-intensity interval training workout (HIIT) that’s as intense and effective as any prolonged workout. The secret? It’s all about your intensity. The more intensity you bring to the table, the better your results will be. High-intensity interval training involves short bursts of maximum effort followed by brief recovery periods. You repeat this sequence several times for as little as 10 minutes and no more than 20-30 minutes. Studies have shown that this style of exercise can increase your stamina, muscle production and fat loss. Other studies have also seen an improvement in triglyceride panels as well as enhanced hormone regulation.

How should I design my workout?

There are many variations of HIIT workouts and styles. You can do aerobic as well as anaerobic exercise, but I would highly recommend incorporating both styles into your workout. When deciding how long to perform each interval, don’t overthink it. Generally speaking, your work interval, which is your short burst of energy, should not last long if you are giving 100% effort. Your recovery period will only last as long as you need it to in order start the sequence again. For example, your intervals may look something like this; 30 seconds on, 60 seconds off. Your recovery period should also be a lighter version of whatever your work period is. For example; sprint 30 seconds, walk or jog 60 seconds until you catch your breath, then sprint again.

Try this 10 minute HIIT circuit on your own:

Warm up for 5-10 minutes with any cardio exercise of your choice. This will get the blood pumping through your body and help warm up your muscles. Stretch if needed, once muscles are warm.  

Repeat each circuit until you complete the prescribed amount of rounds and move onto the next circuit – 30 seconds work : 30 seconds recovery for each circuit.

Circuit1: repeat 4x

  1. Squat and Press – Position feet hip-width apart. With dumbbells in each hand positioned at your shoulders, squat first, then return to starting position and perform a shoulder press. Develop momentum with your squat on your way up to explode dumbbells in the air during your shoulder press. This move should be done with rapid, controlled speed.
  2. Slow jog in place.

Circuit 2: repeat 3x

  1. Fast jumping jacks.
  2. Standing alternating toe touches – While standing, raise right leg straight out in front of you and reach to touch your toes with your left hand. Arms and legs should stay straight to increase the stretch in your muscles. Alternate arms and legs.

Circuit 3: repeat 3x

  1. Abs - bicycle kicks – lying on your back, fold hands comfortably behind your head - do not pull on your neck. Raise your legs about 6 inches off the floor and bring in your left knee in towards your chest. Raise your head and shoulders off the ground and twist your right elbow towards your left knee. Return your left leg to starting position and bring your right knee in repeat the same movement. This should be done in a fairly quick motion. Exhale as you twist your upper body to each side, releasing all the air from your abdomen and lungs. Inhale between movements.
  2. Low forearm plank – position your elbows beneath your shoulders for support. Forearms will be straight out in front of you. Position your toes about hip-width apart or less and lift your body off the floor. Maintain a straight line from the tip of your head to your toes. Imagine balancing a glass of water on your back while in this position. Try to tuck your hips and squeeze your glute muscles while your body is off the ground to protect your lower back.

Is HIIT appropriate for beginners?

If you aren’t currently involved in any kind of fitness program and are wondering where to begin, short interval-based workouts are a good place to start. You can design your workouts in a way that will match your fitness level and won’t exhaust you for more than you can handle. With each workout, you can increase your interval times to improve muscle endurance or keep the circuit times the same and push harder to complete more reps. Either way, high-intensity interval training will rapidly improve your fitness level in no time at all.

Still can’t find the time?

If you are still thinking 10 minutes is too much time to spare, consider the little things throughout your day that can help keep you active. If you work in an office building, park your car far away from the entrance and always take the stairs instead of the elevator. Transform your work space into a standing desk so you aren’t sitting for 8 hours a day. Standing desks will help promote blood flow, prevent poor posture and prevent the shortening of your muscles. If you like to meet up with your friends over coffee each week, then I suggest taking your coffees to-go and catch up while walking around the neighborhood. When your kid’s swim practice or baseball game has you tied up for the next several hours, walk the perimeter of the fields or pool every time your child isn’t up to bat or swimming. This will give you energy throughout the game as well as afterwards, for when you may have to prepare dinner and help with homework later.  If you’re convinced that all exercise requires at least an hour, then you’re more likely to give up before you even get started. High-intensity interval training is the perfect workout to compliment your busy lifestyle.