High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a workout characterized by alternating periods of high intensity exercise (such as sprinting or jumping) with periods of lower intensity exercise or rest. While some strength improvement can happen during HIIT, its nature is inherently cardiovascular.

HIIT Training: How to Get Started

The goal of HIIT is typically to maximize calorie burn while improving cardiovascular fitness and power output in a shorter amount of time compared to traditional cardio. It’s a powerful tool for defining muscle, increasing power, boosting cardiovascular health, burning calories, and much more. Like any fitness program, HIIT demands a balanced approach to reap its benefits. It’s also important to note that “HIIT isn’t for everyone. If you have heart problems, are brand new to exercise or are dealing with joint or muscle pain, you’ll want to steer clear” (Livestrong, 2024).


To ensure success in any fitness routine, it’s important to set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goals. Defining goals for your HIIT journey, whether it’s increasing endurance, shedding fat, or improving overall fitness, helps set the stage for sustainable progress and long-term benefits. If you’re struggling to define goals that work for you, hiring an in home or virtual personal trainer is a great way to find focus and maintain motivation.


Prioritize a minimum of 5 minutes to warm up and prepare your body for the intensity of HIIT. If you’re still feeling stiff after 5 minutes, do more! A proper warm up raises your internal body temperature and loosens muscles to decrease risk of injury (and improve performance), while cooling down for a minimum of 5 minutes lowers your heart rate at a healthy, gradual pace while reducing muscle soreness.


First of all, it’s important to begin HIIT at a manageable intensity level and gradually ramp up. This approach allows your body to adapt to the demands of high-intensity exercise, reducing risk of injury and preventing burnout.

Tune in to your body’s signals during HIIT sessions. If you experience pain beyond normal muscle fatigue, it’s essential to dial back the intensity or switch to a lower impact exercise.


HIIT is “highly customizable, making [it] easy to tailor to your personal schedule and preferred training style” (Men’s Health, 2023). Keep your HIIT sessions diverse by incorporating a range of exercises targeting different muscle groups. This variety prevents boredom and ensures balanced muscular development.

While HIIT offers numerous benefits, it’s essential to complement it with other forms of exercise. As personal trainers, we recommend including strength training, flexibility work, and lower-impact cardio to achieve a well-rounded routine.


“No matter what your workout looks like, high-intensity interval training can help you get the most out of every second you spend sweating” (CBS Sports, 2024). However, while speed is a hallmark of HIIT, sacrificing proper form for the sake of intensity can compromise results and increase risk of injury. Focus on maintaining correct technique throughout each exercise repetition. As in all exercise activities, proper form is key to maximizing effectiveness. Pay attention to your posture, alignment, and technique during each movement.

You should also avoid the temptation to push yourself beyond your limits, as overtraining can also lead to fatigue, injury, and diminished results. Strike a balance between intensity and recovery to optimize your HIIT experience, not only during workouts, but between them! Be sure to incorporate rest days in your schedule to allow your body to repair and rebuild. After all, muscle is built while at rest, not in the gym!


Proper fuel and hydration is crucial for optimal performance and recovery. Drink plenty of water before and after your session, and be sure to have some close by to sip on during your workout as well. Just be careful not to drink too much during training in order to avoid upsetting your stomach. You should also replenish your energy stores with a balanced meal or snack containing carbohydrates and protein when your workout is complete.


Everyone’s fitness journey is unique, and progress may vary based on factors like genetics, lifestyle, and training history. Avoid comparing your results to others and focus on your personal growth and achievements. The fact that you’re showing up for yourself at all is a success in itself!

If you’d like help reaching your fitness goals, we’re here for you. Our personal trainers work with clients in-person in Toronto, Collingwood, Ottawa, Hamilton, Barrie and London. First workouts are zero pressure and always free. Book yours here.