6 tips for easing into high-intensity interval workouts
The articles surrounding high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are numerous. The benefits are becoming clearer in the literature. The workouts can lead to improved body composition, insulin sensitivity and VO2max, which is the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense exercise.
Osteopathic physician Jason Dapore, DO, is a sports medicine physician in Ohio and team doctor for the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey team as well an a Crossfit enthusiast. He often advises patients on how to avoid injuries during HIIT.
Here are 6 tips from Dr. Dapore, on maintaining fitness while avoiding injury:
1. Set clear goals: Make sure you start any fitness program with clear goals in mind. Write them down and choose your program accordingly. If you want to get stronger, follow a strength training program. If you want to run a 5K, then follow a program that suits your current fitness level. There are many training options but choose according to your specific goals.
2. Be realistic. Take a realistic appraisal of your current health status. Make sure you are healthy enough for intense physical activity. A visit to your family physician or sports medicine specialist can help give you an unbiased view of your current health status. High-intensity programs challenge your cardiovascular system, but also your muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. Spend a few weeks working on mobility and strength training to prepare these tissues.
3. Pace yourself. The untrained body adapts rapidly to any new exercise program and you will start to see changes and benefits at early stages. The competitive nature of some programs leaves you wanting more. However, especially early on, make sure you allow some days off to recover. More is not always better and starting off with 2-3 days weekly will allow plenty of time for recovery to limit the risk of injury.
4. Build a foundation first. HIIT programs come in a variety of forms—from basic cycling intervals, Tabata, Orange Theory to CrossFit. When starting out, make sure you choose movements that are easy for you to perform and that you enjoy. This will help build a foundation for more advanced movements and limit your risk of injury.
5. Motivation matters. As you progress in your training, don’t be afraid to seek out experienced coaches that can help guide your training and keep you motivated.
Working out at high intensity without proper nutrition or sleep is asking for injury.
6. Monitor your nutrition and sleep. Congratulations on seeking out ways to help improve your health. Whether you’re looking at HIIT as a starting point or an add-on to your current program, make sure you also support these workouts with a solid nutrition plan and 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Working out at high intensity without proper nutrition and sleep is asking for injury.
Doctors of osteopathic medicine, or DOs, look beyond your symptoms to understand how lifestyle and environmental factors affect your well-being. They listen and partner with their patients to help prevent injury and encourage the body’s natural tendency toward self-healing.