High Intensity Interval Training: Get Lean – Fast!


When I first started working out my cardio workouts used to be pretty long – an hour on average. I took the “more is better” approach.  For the last ten years or so I’ve been doing what’s commonly referred to as high-intensity interval training, which is a “less is more” approach to cardio training.  And I’ve found it to be the most effective & efficient way to burn the most calories and stay lean, particularly if lean doesn’t come naturally to you. I’ll share with you what’s involved – and why it works, if you care. 🙂

High-intensity interval training is cardio that involves alternating segments of high intensity training (where you push pretty much as hard as you can), followed by a recovery period, typically of the same amount of time.  The only kind of cardio I do is outdoor running and it’s the kind I recommend for this type of training (I’ll run on a treadmill only if it’s snowing).  I start my run with a slow jog for 5 minutes (my warm up). When I hit the 5 minute mark, I start the timer on my watch – I have it set to beep every 30 seconds. I basically sprint flat out for 30 seconds, and then take 30 seconds to recover, usually jogging at a slow pace. You can walk if necessary, but it’s important to keep moving; when do you a sprint your body compensates by sending more blood to your legs, and if you suddenly stop moving your legs, the blood pools there. Once I’ve completed 10 intervals I cool down for 5 minutes by jogging at a slow pace.

The workout only takes 20 minutes. If you’ve never done this type of training before, you’ll probably throw up if you do it properly. I always run on an empty stomach, but that’s just me. You probably won’t even be able to get through 10 intervals at first.  But I guarantee that you’ll get results. You can technically do it with any kind of cardio, but I find that it’s difficult to ramp it up to the level you need on a stationary bike or elliptical climber.  Stairclimber, or outdoor stair climbing have also worked for me.

The reason this type of cardio training is so effective, and in my opinion more effective than a long cardio session is this: although you may burn fewer calories in a 20 minute time-span than you do in a 45-minute workout, high intensity interval training increases the rate at which you burn calories throughout the day, basically turning you into metabolic powerhouse.  The other benefit of interval training is because it only lasts 20 minutes, your body is less likely to go into a catabolic state, meaning that your body starts to essentially breaking down muscle for energy. Not a big fan of that.

High intensity interval training is not for the faint-of-heart.  You need to be willing to push hard and get your ass kicked in return. But you will get great results if you can get through it, and stick to it. If you choose running, you’ll also end up a much faster runner. Don’t forget though, that if you’re not fuelling your body with the right energy, the impact of your efforts will be significantly diminished.

Now get out there and start sweating!  Look out for me on the seawall in the morning and wave if you see me 🙂

  • Where do you find enough space outside to do this? I find the seawall way to crowded for a 30 second sprint

  • More importantly… who is the guy in the picture!

  • Alex

    Maybe Jamie could provide us with a photo of the results ?

  • Topher

    I dragged myself out of bed and tried this for the first time this morning…. UGGGGGGH!!!

    It was pretty tough, I was only able to do 1 30 sprint, then 4 more 20 second sprints.

    I’m committed to keep trying though. I want to be faster on that soccer field!

  • Topher….you don’t need to lean out! Maybe Sprint to Burger King? I hate you and you’re metabolism LOL Kidding Love ya!

  • The grass is always greener Redd! haha, I wish I had your muscles!

    I don’t really want to lean down, but I’d love to get faster. Then the boys wouldn’t be able to run away from me 😛

  • kkemper23

    This is a grea article and from experience it worked for me. I realize this is an older article but maybe this post will spark some others interest. This sort of training with a decent diet resulted in me losing 57lbs in a year and an overall better outlook at life. I do have the pictures to prove it and would be willing to talk with anyone who thinks this sort of training is for them. I am very excited to read articles like this. It’s a “It worked for me” article.

  • Jared

    I would hesitate to attempt HIIT on an empty stomach. It’s bad enough as it is doing regular cardio on an empty stomach. I guess for someone who is just looking to lose weight and body fat could get away with this. The principle being that when you first wake up, your body is catabolic and your glycogen levels are low. So when you do cardio or HIIT, your body will deplete the glycogen levels much sooner and go for fat as an energy source.

    As I’m someone who is looking to gain muscle weight, I would still always eat before doing cardio, especially when I’m bulking. I’d leave the aerobic cardio for my cutting phases, all the while still eating before cardio. The reason being is that you run the high risk that your body will eat away at muscle for energy source if you’re doing cardio on an empty stomach while your body is still catabolic. From what I understand, I’d also caution any gainers to beware of HIIT unless you have enough muscle mass to risk some loss. Your body burns fat at a certain % of your max heart rate, and when you enter higher intensity cardio and raise your heart rate, you’ll enter a phase where you’ll also begin to burn muscle.