6 Things You Should Know Before Your First HIIT Class


High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, quickly became the golden child of the quickie workout movement in 2017. Only have 20 minutes to spare? No problem, HIIT will come to your rescue. But that doesn’t mean it’s for the faint of heart. The reason these intense circuit workouts are so effective is that they cram that much work (and that little rest) into a small timeframe, giving you more burn for your buck and leaving more hours in the day for everything else you need to do.

So if you’re a busy little worker bee who still wants to log amazing workouts each week, it might be time to jump on the HIIT train. Here are six important things to keep in mind as you sign up for your first interval training class.

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1. Let your instructor know you’re new to the HIIT method.

Most instructors want to be able to recognize each new face in their studio so they can easily offer additional information, movement cues and even modifications throughout the class. They also like to get an understanding of your existing fitness background so they can suggest smart ways for you to build on your personal foundations (rather than run your body into the ground on the first go ’round). So don’t be shy — walk right up and introduce yourself before class starts. You’ll be better off for it.

2. Pay close attention to all of the verbal cues throughout the class.

You will cycle through quite the number of exercises in a HIIT class, targeting different parts of the body and muscle groups at varying speeds and intensities. It’s honestly enough to make your head spin. So remain focused in the present moment, take things one exercise at a time and really listen to how the instructor sets up the movement and executes it. You’ll find that you engage the right muscles even more and avoid not-so-fun injuries in the process. It’s amazing how the tiniest of tweaks can make a world of difference when it comes to proper form.

3. Modifications don’t make the exercise less effective.

In most HIIT classes, instructors offer several options for particular exercises called modifications. And as a new student, don’t shy away from the variations that seem like the easier way to go. For example, holding a standard side plank with perfect form will do a much more effective job of working targeted muscles than trying to lift and hold the top leg in side plank before you’re ready for the added challenge. So take it one class at a time, let your strength accumulate naturally and crush the moves you can do well in the meantime.

4. Hone in on that mind-body connection.

Repeat after us: Listen to your body. It won’t serve you to walk into a HIIT class with the intention of nailing every tough exercise and completing the most reps out of everyone in the room. Instead, tune into each of your muscle groups that are being worked throughout class and do a mental check. Are you really engaging your glutes in those hip bridges? Are you really firing your external obliques in those Russian twists? The more you focus on the actual work at hand that you want your body to do, the more intensely your body will move through that exercise. And you’ll see gains from that connection faster than anything else.

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5. Don’t be afraid to try new things.

Sometimes, your instructor will whip out a totally crazy move, like donkey kicks or lizard jumps, and you’re going to think, “OMG, can my body even move that way?!” And the answer is that you won’t know until you try. HIIT will expose you to all sorts of new movements that target a collection of muscle groups in unique ways. That’s what makes the workout style so damn effective. So lean into those challenges (carefully!) and explore what you’re capable of no matter your fitness level. You’ll probably surprise yourself.

6. Get ready to revel in the quick results you see and feel in your body.

After your first HIIT class, you’ll likely feel a combination of exhausted and accomplished. Your core muscles will feel tighter, your legs will feel stronger (even if they have a brief Jell-O phase) and you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the hard work you can do in shorter workout session. So keep that momentum going. If you add even just one HIIT session to your weekly fitness routine, you’ll notice substantial strength and endurance gains in no time. Who knows — you might even come to enjoy push-ups and burpees. (Too far? Eh, we can dream.)