Ask the Expert—Erin Holt

Erin Desharnais

Q:What is high-intensity interval training and is it something I should be doing?

A: The answer to this makes up the second part of my topic last issue dealing with how to lose fat, gain muscle, get stronger, bigger, and faster. As the name suggests, high-intensity interval training (HITT) is a method of exercise that alternates between high intensity levels and lower intensity levels. This form of training is the key to fat loss, gaining and maintaining muscle, and building mental toughness. You can get a full workout in 20 minutes of HARD work!


  • It is less time-consuming: You can work yourself harder in just 20 minutes doing HIIT than doing one hour of low-intensity training.
  • By challenging both your aerobic and anaerobic systems simultaneously, you dramatically improve your cardiovascular threshold.
  • HIIT burns more calories and elevates metabolism significantly more than other forms of cardio. This means you burn more fat.
  • It combats monotony
  • You’ll lose weight, not muscle.

HIIT is without a doubt more physically demanding than low intensity training and is just as much a mental challenge as a physical one. There are an infinite number of exercises that can be done but the aim is to include short bursts of high intensity followed by low intensity “recovery” periods. You can do interval training any way, and anywhere, you want: walking, running, hill repeats, cycling, swimming, hiking, stadiums, and the like. The variation of HIIT will depend on your fitness level and I suggest starting relatively light and raising the intensity as your fitness and stamina increase. As a good starting point, do 4-6 repetitions of the following intervals:

Start with a 3-5 minute warm-up.

Interval 1: High-intensity for 30 seconds-1minute

Interval 2: Low-intensity for 1-2 minutes
As you get more fit, you can increase your speed, time at high intensity, and number of sets while decreasing your time at low intensity.

Putting in the extra effort of HIIT will allow you to reap the benefits of burning fat and building muscle much more efficiently as it produces better results in less time. Just prepare to get comfortable being uncomfortable as you push your body to work at higher intensities. And as you feel your muscles burning and your chest heaving, know that all that hard work will soon pay off!

A Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and TPI fitness professional, Erin Desharnais also holds a B.S. in Exercise Science from the University of New Hampshire.

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