Why HIIT Workouts Never Get Easier


When deciding what type of cardio to do most people opt for the treadmill or x-trainer but conditioning workouts, also know as Metabolic Conditioning or MetCons can be far more beneficial and here’s why…

What is HITT Training?

HIIT or High Intensity Interval training/ circuit type training as it may be known as, is a method of conditioning that uses alternating periods of exercise and rest.

The ‘Interval Training’ technique has gained in popularity as one of the most effective fat burning forms of exercises. It can be done in various ways such as on a bike, treadmill, sprints, xtrainer or stepper. A simple example would be 30 second sprints and 30 seconds rest and repeat for the allocated duration depending on the goal. Not only is it very effective for fat loss but it also can dramatically improve your cardiovascular capabilities.

By mixing bursts of high intensity work with low intensity periods of recovery, you’re overloading both the aerobic and anaerobic systems at the same time, getting the benefits of both aspects of training simultaneously” (Appleby, M, 2004)

It is based on the concept that more work can be done and more calories burned at a higher intensity compared to continuous pounding on a treadmill. The intensity and duration of the intervals and the length of the rest periods dictates the training response i.e. the higher the intensity of the training period and the lower the rest period the better the effect.

It is definitely more physically demanding than lower-intensity training, and putting this extra effort in can allow you to reap the benefits quicker and more effectively. It is great for people who don’t have time to spend 1 hour on the treadmill, you can get more bang for your buck completing 30mins HIIT.

Why to try a MetCon?

Another type of conditioning is Metabolic Conditioning also known as a MetCon has become more and more popular due to Bootcamp style training, Crossfit and Insanity. These high intensity circuit-type exercises often involve challenging total body, weight bearing (compound) exercises with the very short recovery intervals as suggested above.

It includes both aerobic and anaerobic exercises – Aerobic being when energy is made using oxygen such as running and Anaerobic respiration is where energy is made in the absence of oxygen producing short bursts of energy such as a 10 sec sprint, push ups or lifting weights. The weights don’t necessarily have to be heavy as the goal is speed and repetition, but it does have to be challenging.

Its quite beneficial in that lifting weights burns more calories, teaches your body how to use different energy systems and helps you build strength, endurance and overall fitness. This is where recent phrases like “lift weights faster” come from!

Why conditioning workouts never get easier?

I am afraid conditioning workouts are always hard no matter how fit you get. As you get fitter you are able to push yourself to greater and greater levels of performance (greater speed, shorter rests, and more reps). This means that the intensity of the conditioning workout remains quite high. As soon as the workout gets easier to complete you should increase your exercise time and reduce your rest periods.

Is HIIT great for fat loss?

Conditioning is one of the best forms of exercise for weight loss and increasing overall fitness. The idea behind this form of training is to constantly push yourself beyond your last session thus increasing your speed and cardiovascular fitness. This form of exercise is used in many sports such as boxing, football, MMA and dancing. I often add a conditioning block /MetCon or Interval Sprints at the end of my strength training.

Exercise has always been a vital component for weight loss. Cardio exercises have vast benefits for the body beyond simply burning extra calories. Conditioning exercises comprise of a series of strength, endurance, and cardiovascular training for the purpose of improving overall fitness and performance, whether it be for weight loss, increased fitness or training for a particular sport. The benefits of adding conditioning to your weight loss routine are varied, such as reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol, aiding digestion and prevention of diseases. It allows the body to work out harder and for longer periods before tiring. It also reduces the necessary recovery time afterward, as well as the soreness associated with that recovery.

How to do HIIT?

The objective of any conditioning program is to improve athletic performance by increasing the efficiency of each energy system. A properly structured training program contains the right amount of time to both aerobic and anaerobic work / cardio and weights, in order to meet the demands of the sport. By challenging both simultaneously you’re improving the calorie-burning abilities of your body. Conditioning can also be highly beneficial for adding new muscle which in turn will help speed up your metabolism.

There are an infinite number of exercises that can be done but the general aim is to include short-high bursts of exercise followed by a slightly longer ‘recovery’ periods.

During the high intensity periods, you’re decreasing your body’s ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. You begin to feel the “burn” as your body eliminates lactic acid (a toxic by-product) and your muscles begin to tire. You wouldn’t physically be able to maintain this level of intensity for long. The key point is not to slow down too much on your ‘recovery’ period as the pulse rate will dip .The recovery period will allow your body to adjust and seems like a very welcome break but don’t get too comfortable – make sure you complete the blocks/rounds!

This is also a great way to introduce weight bearing exercises to your workouts if you have never used them before or are apprehensive about weight training as most women are.

Try adding some conditioning exercises to your training for a couple of weeks and see what you think. If you’re smart you’ll contact a trainer who can design a programme specific to you and you’ll soon become a HIIT machine!

Here are two sample workouts that will improve your conditioning and help reap all the benefits.

Sample Workout 1 – out doors

Interval Running:

  • Run a lap of a football pitch at 65% -You can measure intensity by time or distance or heart rate.

  • Rest 45 seconds

  • Repeat 4 more times.

  • Rest 2 minutes after the first set of 5

  • Run 5 x laps with 35 seconds rest in between repetitions

Sample Workout 2 – gym based

  • 10 Min run /sprint on treadmill as fast as you can (it’s not a jog)

5 min rest

Block 1 – 15 min continuous block

  • Step Ups x 10 (use a step in the gym, the idea is to make this as fast and as explosive as possible)

  • Press Ups x 10

  • Pulley Row machine x 10

Repeat all exercise consecutively, take 30sec rest and repeat – this is one round. Continue to repeat for 10-15mins

3min rest then move onto the stepper

  • 10 Min speed training on stepper

5 min rest

Block 2 – 15 min continuous block

  • Burpees x 10

  • Wall ball throws x 10

  • Abs – Medicine ball pull over’s x 10

Repeat for full 15min with no rest

Remember to count your rounds on each block. I found this difficult at the start as I was concentrating too much on trying not to die! But if you have a trainer or a friend encouraging you on it always helps. Next week when you attempt it again try to do more rounds in the same time you did last week thus increasing your metabolic condition!

References 1, 2, 3, 4

To learn more check out our podcast "Exercise Over 40 With Toni Walsh” available on SoundCloud, iTunes & Spotify.

Want to learn more about the best exercise for weight loss as you age check out our “Fit Over 40“ course with Toni Walsh, available now!


Toni Walsh is a Personal Trainer and Soft Tissue Massage Therapist who specialises in working with women as they age.

She is based in Sandyford, Co. Dublin where she holds fitness classes in a friendly and supportive environment.

Toni also leads the Fit Over 40 course available exclusively for The Female Wellness Hub.

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