Letting fitness slide over the holidays is easy to do. Tight schedules, short days, and frequent celebrations sap the motivation of even dedicated gym goers. Your best weapon? Create a go-to workout that's time efficient (less than 30 minutes), convenient (in your home on your schedule), and effective enough to keep you coming back for continued results. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) meets those requirements and is adaptable and effective for any level of athlete. Here's what you need to know.

HIIT is effective.
Despite the shorter duration of these workouts (less than 30 minutes), the intensity of HIIT workouts results in a higher calorie burn both during and after the workout. This means that the post-exercise oxygen consumption (an indicator of resting calorie burn) is higher following HIIT workouts than other forms of training, and will stay high for two hours afterwards. After HIIT training your body is primed to use your holiday meal building muscle and fueling for your next workout, rather than putting on fat. HIIT is also demonstrated to specifically target abdominal fat. Additional health benefits of HIIT over steady state cardio include improvement in insulin levels, cholesterol, blood pressure, cardiovascular fitness, and body weight (ACSM)

HIIT is efficient.
A true HIIT workout is short in duration. 20-30 minutes is ideal. These workouts are well suited to busy schedules that require results in less time. HIIT workouts also deliver results with 2-3 workouts each week. While you can complement HIIT training with active recovery, strength, and endurance training for a full program, using HIIT sessions as your go-to during the last few weeks of the year will maintain fitness, provide mental health benefits, and support a healthy metabolism while you enjoy your holidays.

HIIT is adaptable.
You don't have to be a well-conditioned athlete to benefit from HIIT workouts. HIIT training targets work periods of 85% or greater of your personal maximum heart rate, which makes it responsive to your ability. HIIT workouts can also be adapted to any piece of exercise equipment to provide intense workouts that are lower impact and directed at the fitness level of the user. Elliptical machines and Indoor Cycles are both incredibly effective means of delivering HIIT workouts without the impact of running and jumping.

HIIT is motivating.
Knowing that your workout is limited to less than 30 minutes makes working hard more approachable. Understanding the benefits of HIIT also makes it easier to push into a level of training difficulty that you might normally avoid. The repetition of specific intervals in HIIT training sessions, as well as the constant variation in intensity, makes these workouts fly by. The post-workout benefits are also motivating in completing the workout.

Here are two of my favorite HIIT workouts.

Indoor Cycle

Minutes 1-3, Warm UP: Work into a target heart rate of 75% of your maximum at a pace of 80-100 RPM under moderate load.

Minutes 3-8, Interval 1: Speed
Alternate 3 1 minute speed bursts with 1 minute recovery periods. During the speed portion, maintain the load that you established during the warm-up, increasing your cadence to as fast as you can control. During rest periods, focus on recovering and then returning to your warm-up pace and effort before your next work.

Minutes 8-12, Interval 2: Climb
Alternate three 45 second climbs with three 45 second recovery periods. Reduce your cadence to 60-80 RPM's and increase to a heavy load pushes you up out of the saddle. Maintain this load for 25 seconds then return to the saddle and maintain the load for 20 seconds more. Rest for 45 seconds by reducing the load and returning to a cadence of 60-80 RPM's. Repeat. You can also choose to maintain your position in the saddle if you prefer.

Minutes 12-15, Interval 3: Power Tabata
During your recovery from your final climb, return to a cadence of 60-80 RPM's with a moderate load (a level that returns you to about 75% of your maximum heart rate). Maintaining the same load, increase your cadence to close to 100 RPM's for 20 seconds. Rest completely during the ten second break. Repeat the effort for a total of six work periods.

Minutes 15-20, repeat Interval 1, Speed.

Minutes 20-24, repeat Interval 2, Climb.

Minutes 24-27, repeat Interval 3, Power Tabata.

Minutes 27-30, cool down.
Continue riding at a reduced load and speed until your heart rate returns to 75% or less of your maximum heart rate. Finish by stretching your hips, quads, calves, hamstrings, and shoulders.

This workout can be adapted to an elliptical trainer or recumbent bike using the same variations in load and speed. It can be used as a template for treadmill workouts as well.

Workout 2: Sprint 8
Vision Fitness's Sprint 8 Treadmills take the guesswork out of designing a HIIT workout. Backed by research, this patented program combats body fat gain, declining energy, and reduced metabolism through a HIIT style training program. Your workout will start with a warm up period followed by eight 30 second training segments with an intensity that is based on your fitness and performance level. This entire workout takes only 20 minutes and is a proven way to keep holiday weight gain at bay this year.