If you haven’t worked out in a while (or tend to stick to yoga and barre), trying high-intensity interval training may sound intimidating.
“High-intensity” is pretty self-explanatory, and the workout’s abbreviation does happen to be HIIT, which doesn’t help in terms of sounding aggressive.
But HIIT has become a popular workout method for a reason. It’s great for fat and weight loss, heart health, and generally incorporates power moves that make you stronger—both physically and mentally (that is, after you recover from all of that panting).
“The cardio output plus the strength training really works wonders,” explains Margie Welch, an instructor at Beast Fitness Evolved, a cool community HIIT studio in Park Slope, Brooklyn. “And beyond being effective, it’s fun.” (Really!)
Ready to hit your first HIIT class? Follow these simple tips from Welch before you go, and you’ll be a plyometric pro in no time.
5 Tips for Your First HIIT Class
1. Adjust your mindset
If you show up scared, it’s going to impact your performance. “I think you should walk into a class thinking you can do it, having the mindset that you can do whatever you set your mind to,” Welch says.
2. Communicate with your instructor
At Beast Fitness, instructors start every class by asking if it’s anyone’s first class and then speaking to newbies individually about limitations and injuries. “Know that the instructor has your back,” Welch says. When they ask you if you’ve got issues, they really want to know. And if they don’t ask, go up and talk to them about any concerns you might have.
3. Modify, modify, modify
“Knowing you can always modify—for injuries, mobility, stability—is really important,” Welch says. There is no exercise that doesn’t have an alternative, so if you can’t do something or it just really doesn’t feel good, ask for another option. “You should always be thinking, ‘How can I change this to work for me?’”
4. Respond to your body, not the room
When it comes to how hard you should push, Welch says, “It might sound cheesy and clichéd, but listen to your body. If something is painful, take it back a notch.” As you get more used to working out at high intensities, you’ll get better at recognizing the difference between muscle fatigue and actual pain. No matter what, don’t feel like you have to keep doing something to keep up with the rest of the class. If it hurts, stop.
5. Prioritize recovery
Look, you’re going to be sore the next day (or three), and that’s okay. “Soreness with any new workout routine is normal,” Welch says. “If it’s a constant thing, maybe you need to vary your workouts and add yoga or Pilates into your routine.” Beast, for instance, offers a class called Tame that incorporates uses foam rolling and other stretching and mobility exercises that help with recovery in between HIIT sessions. Don’t run out before the stretch at the end of class, and you can also take the stretches you learn there and do more of them at home.
And don’t forget: hydration and proper nutrition (especially refueling with protein right after a workout) are key when you’re pushing your body to the max.