For our NYRR RUNCENTER series, NYRR’s Katie Manzi is going to a different class each month to see what’s on offer for runners and non-runners alike. Check out the last post here and learn more about stretching for runners!
New Yorkers are heading indoors this week as winter temperatures arrive with an icy blast. Whether you brave the cold and run outside anyway, or whether you prefer to exercise within the safety of four heated walls like me, it is always a good idea to have an option on hand for working out inside.
Coming off a busy time here at NYRR surrounding marathon season, I unfortunately had let my fitness take a back seat, so I knew I was not in my best shape heading into a midday HIIT class.
High-Intensity Interval Training is, as the name suggests, an extremely intense workout. The idea is to give full effort in quick bursts of exercise with rest periods—where you are often still active—immediately after. Your heart should be pumping hard the entire class, and it’s supposed to hurt (in a good way). A more serious class, if you are nursing an injury or are just starting out on your fitness journey, this is a class that might be too much too soon.
How is your balance? Balance is a key factor in several common exercises that are part of HIIT classes.
Instructor Laura Kovall reminded us at the beginning to give our best effort but not to push ourselves beyond our abilities, and it was okay to take a rest if we needed it. This was advice I took very seriously! For this particular class, we focused on three areas: cardio, glutes, and core, which are all very important for runners.
From the moment the music started we went hard, immediately jumping into cardio with lunges and jumping jacks. For someone who had never done a HIIT class, it was a bit of a shock, but I threw myself into it and gave it my all.
The only equipment we worked with were a yoga mat and a single yoga block, and we alternated between standing exercises and floor work. Most of the exercises were familiar but I’d never done them that quickly and one right after the other. Within minutes I was sweating buckets and breathing hard, my heart threatening to beat itself out of my chest. Kovall reminded us that this was, in fact, the goal of HIIT, so I felt good about my progress.
HIIT does not mess around, and it delivered exactly what it promised. I had not experienced a workout even remotely this intense since college, and muscles that I had been neglecting were soon aggressively feeling the burn.
Although I was, admittedly, struggling and in a decent amount of pain, it was a productive struggle. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, that is, pushing myself as hard as I could without injury. The struggle was showing me where my weak points were and pushing forward through those weaknesses helped me lay the foundations for growth that will make me stronger down the road. The pain I felt was all good pain. I wasn’t hurting myself or doing permanent damage.
When doing a workout like this it is important to know the difference between productive struggling and when it’s time to stop. For example, when I felt my stomach start to churn, I took a break to let my body recover as I knew from years of running track that nausea is a sign I’m overdoing it. When I landed on my foot wrong and felt sharp pain, I took a moment to adjust and let the pain pass instead of trying to power through it.
HIIT forces you to really get to know your body, to know understand what it is telling you and learn its messages. If you already have a pretty good knowledge of these messages, then be prepared to listen to them as you push yourself to the limit and discover how strong you are when you arrive in that place.
When we finished, I was a little trembly, kind of exhausted, and extremely sweaty. Despite the hardship I had just put myself through in the name of fitness, I was happy, and felt that sense of accomplishment you only get from hard work.
Doing HIIT is kind of like stepping into a hurricane and emerging on the other side a little battered but stronger and more resilient for it. If that sounds like something you want to do, then check out the NYRR event calendar to find out when the next class is being offered.