Aerobics? What a terribly boring way to get in shape and lose weight. Ride a bike, run, swim for a whole half-hour or more and you’ll be breathing hard, sweating and oh so bored. Enter HIIT.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is an attractive option when it comes to building cardiovascular endurance and burning fat because it promises to deliver the same results as that half-hour bore in only a fraction of the time.

HIIT was introduced as a no frills way to burn calories, lose weight and build a strong cardiovascular base. Since the idea first hit the mainstream, regardless of fitness goal, HIIT has been the answer.

Why HIIT Hooks You

“It only takes four minutes.”

I think this alone is what hooks most people away from aerobic training. But HIIT is filled with delusions of grandeur. The perception is that HIIT is as good or better than traditional aerobic exercise, burns as much or more fat and the biggest misconception that it’s easier because it takes less time.

On its face High intensity interval training sounds simple enough: go as hard as you can for a short period, rest, repeat, and reap the benefits. The problem, your all-out effort is what makes the difference. What most people consider hard work and, therefor, what they consider HIIT isn’t actually HIIT at all.

Where People Go Wrong With HIIT

They don’t go HARD enough: Typically, I see people go “pretty hard” for a period of time then ease up by going slower to actively rest. True HIIT requires everything you’ve got, it’s incredibly painful and it’s not something you can accomplish unless you are already quite fit. HIIT requires you to not hold anything back and approach the fine line between fitness and blacking out into your own pile of vomit. World-class athletes can at best put out this kind of effort for about 20 seconds, if you’re in good shape you might be able to pull of 6 to 15 seconds. If you’re thinking “I can work really hard for 20 seconds, that sounds easy,” than you are far from ready for HIIT.

They don’t actually rest during the rest periods: HIIT is not like other interval work, there is not an active rest phase. You don’t keep peddling or walking, you lay on the ground or hunch over and rest. Generally speaking, the longer the rest and the shorter the work period, the more suitable the HIIT workout is for powerful, explosive exercises. For example, 10 seconds of an all-out sprint and 50 seconds or rest.

If you want to get the most out of a real HIIT workout, you absolutely must pour 100% of your effort into those 10 seconds. By the end of it, you won’t feel good, in fact, you will feel like shit. You might even feel like passing out or puking, which is part of the reason that you shouldn’t overdo it on HIIT.

HIIT IS NOT EASY

It takes less time, it’s not easy. Puking is not easy. Putting out 100% is not easy. Riding my bike in my heart rate zone 4 (165~) for a half-hour feels much easier than a good HIIT workout. HIIT is not a shortcut it’s a supplement and unless you’re 100% in, you’re much better off going for a jog or bike ride.