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High intensity interval training

HIIT workout

CLEO’s Astrid discovers a workout that’s not for the faint of heart…

Between work, friends, family and relationships, we all know how hard it is to fit regular exercise into our busy schedules. So if you’re looking for a type of training that gives you the best results for the shortes amount of time, high intensity interval training (HIIT) might be for you.

When personal trainers Jana and Calvin showed me the half hour workout they’d be taking me through on Monday lunchtime at my local gym I thought, easy — this’ll be a walk in the park. After all I’ve been going to strength and cardio classes and going for runs quite regularly. But boy was I wrong — this was a real toughie. I felt like I’d truly made the most of every minute of my workout, and really earned my blob session in front of the TV that evening!

Jana explains the benefits of HIIT and shares a yummy, healthy snack to satisfy your 3pm-itis!

Can you explain HIIT?

HIIT it is a training technique in which you give all-out, one hundred percent effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods. This type of training gets and keeps your heart rate up and burns more fat in less time. It has a great afterburn effect or EPOC effect which means your body will still be burring calories and fat long after you finish exercising.

Astrid’s lunchtime workout:

1. Three rounds: 21 reps, then 15, then 9

Sandbag squat to press

Suicide planks (holding a plank on your elbows then walking up to your hands)

Kettle bell swings

2. Three rounds

7 burpee box jump overs

20 seconds pull-ups using the TRX (suspension training ropes)

7 box step ups with squats

20 seconds TRX push-ups

3. Finisher

30 seconds rope slams

Sled push

What are the advantages?

1. Efficiency. This type of training style is very efficent. HIIT is the ideal workout for people with a busy schedule! Whether you want a good workout on your 30 minute lunch break or only have 15 minutes to spare.

As you experienced in the workout you did with us, you can get a full body functional workout with minimal time required. You will achieve more results and progress with short and sharp bursts of HIIT training then the girl jogging on the treadmill for an hour!!!

2. It increases your metabolism. You will lose weight and not muscle. A lot of ladies want to tone up or want their skin to feel firmer. With HIIT training particular when using weights (for example, dumbells, sandbags or kettlebells) you can ensure you will be toning, maintaining good muscle whilst most of the weight loss will be coming from fat stores.

HIIT training also helps to translate into a metabolism boost for up to 48 hours. Which means you’ll still be burning fat even after you’ve left the gym. WINNING!!

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Jana demonstrates a sandbag squat to press

3. No gym equipment needed and you can do it anywhere. If you have gym equipment that’s awesome, however it’s not necessarily needed. A lot of the time HIIT training is performed by body weight exercises. Think body weight squats, push ups, explosive jumping lunges or sit ups, running etc.

Be creative chose different combinations, mix up the sets, reps and time domains. Routine is the enemy keep wokouts varied, creative, short and intense.

4. It’s challenging and different. A lot of women aren’t to sure what to do at the gym or get bored easily doing the same exercise programme. HIIT training is definitely a challenge and is always different. It may be hard you may be in pain or out of breath (just for a short while)  but you certainly wont get bored. So it’s a great way to spice up your training.

What if you’re a beginner?

You can definelty break down the circuit to suit your individual levels. For example a beginner could do lower reps at a lighter weight, with a longer rest period. Or a more advanced trainer could go heavier with more reps or shorter rest.

The great thing about full body functional fitness and HIIT training is that any one at any fitness level can do the same similar workout and still get great results.

What are the best exercises to make the most out of your time at the gym?

Doing compound movements, like squats, lunges, deadlifts, pressing and push ups are all exercises that are functional and that we do in our day to day lives. They are also movements that are using more then one muscle group and will give you the best results for overall weight loss and fitness. Put them into as many combinations as possible for variety.

If you are short on time you could do a HIIT-style training adding in intervals of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. It can include anything and everything that will spike your heart rate. Try burpees, squat jumps, jumping lunges, running or rowing. Do this for 5-10 minutes and you will have yourself a great, challenging workout that will give you maximum results and requires the least amount of time.

What would you say to those who are new to the gym?

Starting at the gym can be a scary thing especially if you have no idea where to start, how to use the machines and what the group fitness classes are. What we would say is don’t be afraid everyone needs to start somewhere and just get stuck into it.

You could even start with a few jogs outside to start to build some base fitness. It is also a great idea to get a trainer that can show you around the gym and explain how to use  the equipment. Safety first is so important. Start light and build your way up. Fitness is a work in progress take small steps towards your goals and don’t be afraid to start.

Jana’s chocolate and pistachio bliss balls

bliss balls

I love making these espiacally if I am craving something sweet but wanting a healthier alternative (instead of eating a chocolate bar). Also another really good snack option for that afternoon 3pm slump! These are very simple to make if you own a quality blender or food processor.


1 cup raw cashews

1/2 cup melted coconut oil

1/4 cup of quality protein powder

2 Tbsp of quality cacao powder

8-10 medjool dates (soaked in water for 5 minutes)

Splash of coconut milk to help blend


Place all dry ingredients into a food processor, blend until fine in texture. Then add drained dates, coconut oil and a splash of coconut milk (it is quite a sticky moist mixture). Place in fridge for 15 minutes. Then roll into bite sized bliss balls and roll in pistachio nuts (pulse in blender for a fine texture). Let them set for 1-2 hours in the fridge then enjoy.


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