My first encounter with interval training was watching a video of personal trainers explain why this particular workout is the holy grail of all workouts. Flaunting their six packs and sporting gel in their hair, they kept talking about how intervals shed insane amounts of belly fat and help you lose immense amounts of weight in a short period of time. Whatever, I thought to myself. I then spent some time researching what science had to say about the remarkable benefits of interval training. I found out it burns a high number of calories, decreases your resting heart rate, and improves your aerobic capacity — yet I still only saw it as a short-lived workout fad.
It wasn't until I set aside my cynicism and committed to a solid routine of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that I discovered why interval training really is a sustainable, effective form of exercise for the everyday person: it's a workout you can do anywhere, at any time. You may not think this is a big deal, but it's a crucial factor to consider when you're trying to make exercise a lasting part of your life, which is much more important than burning fat and getting ripped. So instead of falling for the empty flat-ab promises, think about interval training as a workout that's worthy of a long-term commitment, regardless of what external circumstances you're working with.
Here are four reasons why you can take interval training everywhere you go.
1. You Don't Need Any Equipment
All it takes is your own body weight to get the job done. If you look at the most basic movements of interval training, you'll see things like jump squats, mountain climbers, and broad jumps, none of which require equipment. Furthermore, these movements alone will spike up your heart rate and get you sweating in a short amount of time. That means you could cancel your gym membership and still manage to get a tough workout under your belt whenever you need it.
Let's also assume for a second that you were never a fan of the gym, and you've always been more of an at-home workout kind of girl. The videos you've been doing, though, like P90X or Pure Barre, most likely require things like dumbbells, medicine ball, or a workout band. HIIT-inspired routines allow you to leave all that behind and just work with what you were born with.
2. You Can Do Interval Training In Small Spaces
Maybe you're traveling and your hotel room is teeny tiny, or you live in a small apartment. Whatever the case may be, interval training is not a workout that requires a large, spacious room. If you choose the right kind of routine, the only space you need is close to the size of a yoga mat. Even if you're required to get airborne with your workout, that doesn't mean you need a lot of elbow room. I've even been known to do an interval routine in the space between my bed and the wall.
This is why HIIT is a fantastic workout you can incorporate at any time of day. All you need is 15 spare minutes in a compact space and you can reap all the major benefits, including better mood and fewer junk food cravings.
3. You Can Make Up Your Own Routine If You're In A Rush
After familiarizing yourself with a few different HIIT workouts, you'll see that there's a basic formula most of them follow. Most of them consist of 20 seconds of intense movement followed by 10 seconds rest. The rest can be an active one, like holding a plank. Others have you do as many reps as you an for 60 seconds, and then you rest for 15. Once you understand different structures, though, you have the freedom to mix and match to create your own.
Choose several movements to work on, and then decide how many rounds you want to do. You can either pull ideas from videos you've seen or you can even make up your own. This allows you to squeeze in an interval workout anytime, even if it's a last-minute decision you make before you leave the house in the morning. No need to waste time scouring the Internet for a fresh routine.
4. You Can Adjust The Workout To Fit However You're Currently Feeling
We never approach a workout with the same body as yesterday, so it's important to have a workout laid out in front of us that gives us room to make modifications if needed. For example, you might be dealing with some aches and pains in your back that weren't around the last time you exercised, or you might just feel a bit more rundown because you didn't get much sleep last night.
Interval training gives you the freedom to adjust in many different ways. You can make your rest times longer. You can modify those jump squats to regular squats. If you're feeling like you have the extra energy, you can even transform each movement into an advanced version. No matter what you're feeling, routines like HIIT let you tweak the workout to fit your body, not the other way around.
Want more women's health coverage? Check out Bustle's new podcast, Honestly Though, which tackles all the questions you're afraid to ask.
Images: FitnessBlender (2), Brandon Carter, Body Project/YouTube