How many of you have heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder”? It’s one of my favorites and something I think about a lot.  So let’s think for a minute about how we can apply this to our workout routines. And in this case, we may need to think about working smarter AND harder. But trust me, you’re going to like the end result.

What is HIIT?

High Intensity Interval Training – or HIIT – is definitely a trending topic in exercise right now. But I’m guessing (and I could be wrong) that a lot of you might have questions about it. Like…How can I incorporate it into my fitness regimen? What exactly does it mean? Why is it good for me? If I’m not in the best shape, can I still do it? Etc. I’m no expert, nor do I claim to be one. However, I’ve used this method for a while now with my own exercise routine and some with clients and I hope to be able to tell you about my experiences with it and explain a little about the science behind why it works (for my more analytical friends out there).

Breaking it Down

HIIT is exactly what the name says…it’s high intensity…and uses a type of interval training. Keeping it simple, I often refer to it in 4 parts: 1) periods of work, 2) periods of rest, 3) exercises, and 4) rounds. Here’s an example workout:
10 sec rest / 50 sec work x4 rounds
  • Switch Lunges
  • Pushups
  • Bicycles
  • Plank Jacks
So…you do each exercise for 50 seconds, resting only 10 seconds in between and complete the exercises in circuit form 4 times through. Make sense? Doing the math, it’s only 16 mins worth of working out (including your “rest” period), but it’s enough – if done properly and consistently – to make a difference in your fitness level.

What’s the Catch?

That pesky work period. You. Have. To. WORK. What you think you’re doing by working “hard”…you need to work HARDER. I’ve seen a lot of you work out so I can say that. It’s one of the most challenging things to do – push yourself to your limits each and every round, each and every exercise, each and every rep. It means not holding anything back for the exercises that you know are coming up. If I’m doing this kind of workout, here’s a trick I use to make sure that I’m really pushing myself as much as I can. I record the number of reps of each exercise I do (yes, in 10 sec – HUSTLE).
When I complete the first round and start the next, I know that my goal is the same amount of reps I did the first time, but there is no way that I should be able to do as many – if I pushed myself as hard as I should have the first time around. So no sandbagging – you’ll only end up cheating yourself. You still with me?
Don’t get caught up in the details of the rest / work periods, the exercises or the rounds. This can be formatted to meet you at your level of fitness. So what if you have to take longer rest periods or do shorter work periods at first. What’s important is that you work as hard as you can – without compromising your form – in the intended work periods. And here’s the beauty of it …as you find yourself getting in better shape, you just work harder during those work periods. You produce more. You benefit more.
As promised…for my more analytical friends, here is why it works to your advantage to incorporate this into your workouts.  I’ll also include the fat / carb breakdown so you can apply this to the myth about the “fat-burning” zone that you may have heard about…


Let’s say a person walks 20min at 3.0mph. Their RQ (respiratory quotient; amount of CO2 expired / amount of O2 consumed) is 0.80 and they burn 4.8 cal / min (3.2 cal from fats, 1.6 cal from carbs). Total, they burn 96 calories (64 cal from fats, 32 cal from carbs).
Same person jogs for 20min at 6.0mph. Their RQ is now 0.86 and they burn 9.75 cal / min (4.48 from fats, 5.2 from carbs). Total calories burned is 195 (90 cal from fats, 104 cal from carbs). Are they burning more “fat”? Yes…but not more calories and therefore, if weight loss or calorie burning is your goal, the more effort put forth, the bigger your reward.

Are You In?

So how is this sounding? Would you rather spend 15, 20, or 30 minutes working smarter (and harder) or spend an hour just…working? I don’t have time for that. And I know many of you don’t as well.  Don’t get too caught up in the details…how long you work, how long you rest, what exercises you do, how many times…just try it out. Make adjustments. And most of all work hard at it – but work smart!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top