High Intensity Interval Training: The Poison’s In The Dose

Man-Oh-Man…this is a HOT topic!

I know because I get asked about it with some frequency from family…friends…and clients.

So…without further adieu (OR getting deep in the weeds)…let me just get to the point:

What is High Intensity Interval Training?


Should YOU do it?

First…Instead of little ole’ me giving my humble definition of HIIT…

I’d rather ‘roll over’ and Let Wiki Take Over:

You got this Wiki 😉

High-intensity interval training (HIIT), also called high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) or sprint interval training (SIT), is a form of interval training, a cardiovascular exercise strategy alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods, until too exhausted to continue.

Alright…that definition works. And it does fall right into my little trap.


Well…it’s right about where Wiki says “…a cardiovascular exercise strategy alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods, until too exhausted to continue.”

“…until too exhausted to continue.” ⇨ Good Goal?…Not So Good Goal?…


Reminds me of a clever ‘something’ I once heard from a witty mentor in the fitness industry

I recall him saying something like this…

“Do our clients really need to get more tired? I mean…Is that our job as fitness pros? Hey listen…Guys… If the goal is to get people tired…let’s just have them adopt 10 kids. That’ll get em’ tired”

I digress…(a lot)

Anyway…point made!

Thank you Mr. John.

It is in my estimation, and what I would consider a valid reason for anyone to

go to ‘Any Gym U.S.A.’ , is to simply get better.

What does ‘get better’ mean?

Well, in the gym it might mean to have a quantifiable measure that what you are currently

doing in the gym (and outside the gym) is in fact bringing you closer to a goal (Your goal).

I mean…

How many people who go to the gym actually make record (journal) of what they are doing

during their workout so that every subsequent workout derives a measure that they can make a

slight improvement on?


Answer: .0067% of all people who go to the gym journal what they actually do in the gym!

(I just made that up…)

But really…Who keeps score of what they do in the gym?

The reps…the sets…the weight used…the actual exercise(s)…‘Time Under Tension’…Work-To

Rest intervals…blah…blah…blah…

You know…All the ‘stuff’ that quantifies getting better (or not getting better).

Here my friend is where the true crux of the HIIT problem is.

There is no quantifiable measure (except looking at your heart rate on the wall)

that you are making any improvements in your fitness…except…that MAYBE your cardio-

vascular system is improving. You know…pumping blood/oxygen more effectively and efficiently

throughout your body via the work of your heart and lungs.

But do you really KNOW that your ‘cardio’ is getting better?

Or is it your perception that you are getting better (at cardio…?)

There is one way to know if your cardio is improving.

Here it is but it is not reliable because there are so many variables to consider that can effect it.

How long does it take for your heart rate (read: Beats Per Minute) to come back down to 65%

of max. heart rate after a 90% max. heart rate effort?

Times Up…GO!!!

But heart rate recovery is just one of the qualities in quantifying fitness.

How about flexibility?



Relative Skeletal Muscle Mass?




Recovery Capacity?

Lots of qualities…right?

And HIIT covers some of these…but not all.

And THIS my friends is the point.

There is not one single program that covers ALL of these above qualities effectively.

Most of these qualities can only get improved upon when we spend some time

in the gym on these two specific things.

They’re really just concepts…but they are important concepts in fitness.

One is…You need to spend time ‘building the motor’

And two…You need to spend time (sometimes…more time) building the skill of recovery.

So, quickly…what do I mean by building the motor?

Well, building the motor means going to the gym and building some more strength and muscle

through proper resistance training so that your

other qualities have the foundation where in they can grow and improve upon.

More muscle…and it doesn’t need to be a crazy amount…


more efficient movement and in effect a broader base to establish a greater expression of


Makes sense…yes?

In other words…You can’t ‘Build The Motor’ if you’re constantly ‘Running The Motor’

And High Intensity Interval Training falls under the category of ‘Running The Motor’

And It’s ok to do that once…maybe twice a week.

But more than that…??

(Oh no…I smell an analogy coming : )

Let’s say you have this penchant to go fast.

So, years ago you decided to take up car racing.

You race cars every Saturday.

From Sunday-Friday you’re under the hood of your race car

‘re-building’ the motor SO THAT your race car doesn’t blow up during

next Saturday’s race.

Makes sense? (place a nodding emoji here)

Under this context you would spend some of the other days in

the gym in more of a building phase.

And making notes of your workout, of course.

Like how much weight you squatted or pressed over head

and for how many sets and reps….

…All with correct form. (pretty important…that correct form thing)

Just the basic stuff that you want to actually know and make progress with.

Then, maybe one of the days during the week you do yoga or take a recovery centric class

that focuses on proper breathing, flexibility, postured poses…you know…

the chill stuff that helps makes you better.

Maybe I can summarize the whole point of this article

(or is this a post?…Damn. I’m not sure)

with this single pith:

“Constant State Of Fight Or Flight Maketh A Once Strong Man Break…

And A Young Man’s Plight”