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H.I.I.T. & Crossfit

You’ve probably seen them at the gym or the park – people sprinting back and forth, banging out sets of squats and pushups, maybe flipping big tires or running with logs in their arms. These are people engaging in high intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.) or its cousin Crossfit, the trend which has taken the fitness world by storm. H.I.I.T. is an exercise strategy that alternates short bursts of anaerobic activity (anaerobic is defined as “without air,” meaning the activity is intense enough to create an oxygen debt in the body) with recovery periods of more moderate activity. Crossfit expands upon this foundation, adding elements like weight lifting, calisthenics, and plyometrics into the workouts.

When done correctly, H.I.I.T. and Crossfit are effective workouts. They improve resting metabolic rate and maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max). They build muscle and bone density while burning fat. They increase strength, endurance, and general athleticism. Good instructors can tailor exercises for nearly any fitness level, and because the workouts are performed at a high intensity, they can typically be completed in 30 minutes or less. However, that same high intensity that makes the workouts so effective can also be a trigger for injury.

Any time you push yourself to a level of full exertion (for example, by sprinting at 100% effort rather than 90% effort), you run the risk of going beyond what your body can give. Especially as fatigue accumulates during the course of a workout and form gradually deteriorates, the threshold of “Too Much” will creep closer. Add to this the pressure of performing as many reps as you can in a certain time period, racing to beat a previous number or to compete with classmates, and injuries such as strains/sprains/tears/pulls are an all too common result.

If you’re attracted to the fun and variety of H.I.I.T./Crossfit workouts, there are many ways to reduce your injury risk so you can reach your fitness goals:

Seek out an experienced H.I.I.T./Crossfit coach or join a reputable gym that offers classes for a variety of fitness levels.
Learn your body’s limits and approach them gradually. The goal of gaining fitness is to push your limits, not explode through them and hurt yourself. Until you get a good idea of what you can safely do, err on the side of caution. Less is more in the beginning.
Pay attention to form. Whether you are sprinting, planking, or dead lifting, correct form is key to both avoiding injury and getting the most benefit from the exercise. If that means you must slow down, then so be it. It’s better to do 15 squats correctly than to whip out 30 squats that are sloppy, ineffective, and dangerous.
Stay hydrated. Muscles lose flexibility when they are dehydrated and are more vulnerable to injury.

If you’re bored with your current exercise routine, or if you’re looking for a fun, exciting workout to motivate you to begin an exercise program, look no further than H.I.I.T. and Crossfit. Just take it slow in the beginning so you can enjoy the workouts for the long term. Keep moving, my friends!

– Alan

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