High intensity workouts like CrossFit, Insanity and P90X were a phenomenon this past year and now, according to the American College of Medicine’s Sports Fitness Journal, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), is expected to be the top calorie-burning trend of 2014. While the popularity has increased, so have subsequent injuries.
The HIIT workout is one that centers around high intensity exercises immediately followed by a short period of rest or limited activity. For example: A one-minute sprint on the treadmill followed by a 90-second recovery period or jump rope for three minutes followed by a 45-second walking lunge with alternating hand-to-hand kettlebell exchange. Repeat!! Some HIIT workouts can be completed in as little as 20 minutes.
While the variety of exercises and short time commitment can be tempting to those seeking something besides the boring treadmill routine, these workouts aren’t for everyone. We asked certified personal trainer, Jessica Smith, to give her thoughts on the CrossFit craze. “A good, safe fitness program should be scalable to meet the participants’ fitness levels,” she said. “I’ve seen some programs that do that, and others that really can’t adequately offer modifications that meet all participants needs.”
This year, well-intentioned Americans will eat one last slice of chocolate pecan pie and toast the New Year vowing to get in better shape and lose weight. Many will hop on the HIIT bandwagon thinking they can Burpee or Box-jump their way into to chiseled abs like Brad Pitt or shapely thighs like Jessica Biel (admitted CrossFit celebs), but without proper guidance, mere mortals could get hurt. “There seems to a be a spirit of pushing to your max in CrossFit that I think can offer some positive benefits, but it may also influence beginner exercisers to push beyond their current capabilities into injury as well,” Smith added.
Many of these routines involve plyometric (explosive) movements, as well as tire-flipping, olympic weightlifting and sprints that are hard on joints, muscles and even the heart. The most common injuries are cervical strain, lower back pain and orthopedic complaints including knees, hips, and ankles. “Many facilities that practice HIIT workouts focus much more on quantity than quality. The ‘WODs’ are based on how many reps you can do in a given amount of time- and not necessarily how well you can perform the exercise,” adds our own Lauren Martin, and NESTA certified personal trainer. “This is why so many people get injured. In my opinion, it is much more important to focus on proper form and body alignment than how many reps you can do in a minute.”
If you decide to tackle the fast-paced challenge of a HIIT workout, Jessica offers this piece advice, “You have to listen to your body. And I’m not talking about the voice inside your head that says,’I really don’t feel like working out,’ but the one that screams, ‘This movement is hurting in a BAD way and I don’t think I should be doing it.”
If you’re new to the HIIT workout routine, let Jessica ease you into it with this 9-minute low-impact HIIT cardio workout video.