High Intensity Interval Training: Is It Right for You? By Michael J. Leddy III, MD stopsportsinjuries.org Over the past decade, high intensity interval training (HIIT) has grown exponentially in popularity and participation. Franchise gyms are now available across the country offering an alternative to traditional work out programs. It has developed now into a competitive sport with lucrative sponsorships and prize money, including events such as extreme obstacle course races and athletic competitions that search for the fittest athlete. What is high intensity interval training? HIIT is an enhanced form of interval training that incorporates elements of Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, powerlifting, gymnastics, calisthenics, strongman, and other exercises. It promotes the strategy of alternating periods of short intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. HIIT is a form of cardiovascular exercise. Usual HIIT sessions may vary from 4–30 minutes. These short, intense workouts provide improved athletic capacity and condition, improved glucose metabolism, and improved fat burning. Why has HIIT become so popular? HIIT offers shorter, more intense workouts that allow participants to spend less time in the gym while maximizing a workout. The workouts also change daily which breaks the monotony of boring gym routines. Workouts also are done in groups where each individual encourages the other to continue to push on. Are there health concerns with HIIT? As HIIT’s popularity has grown, so has the prevalence of certain injuries. Overuse injuries such as tendonitis, bursitis, and muscle strains are on the rise. Many times this is due to an individual’s jumping right into these programs after being sedentary for some time. Also, many of the exercises and maneuvers are new to individuals as is much of the equipment used. This can lead to poor technique and improper use that in turn could lead to serious injury. Participants should also be aware of exertional or exercise induced rhabdomyolysis. This is a potentially dangerous condition caused by significant muscle breakdown due to extreme physical exertion. How do I get started in HIIT? Prior to starting any exercise program, any individual with prior medical concerns should consult his or her physician. New participants should first establish a baseline level of fitness. Workouts should be held in clean, well maintained facilities, under the supervision of a certified trainer. Athletes should feel comfortable with all equipment and learn appropriate technique and form to lessen the chance of injury. If pain or discomfort does develop, have it evaluated by a physician prior to continuing. Finally, always maintain proper hydration and nutrition.