Visiting my local gym and travelling around the country I get depressed at the lack of understanding shown by many PTs and instructors when it comes to HITT.
There is no doubt that HITT is..well a big hit! It's popularity is growing all the time and boy does it deliver results! The growth of HITT brands and it's flourishing (particularly within the boutique sector) and via brands like CrossFit and Insanity is to be greatly admired.
However, beguiling as it is to think otherwise, HITT only appeals to a specific niche (within that small minority of the population who exercise regularly). For people who are less fit, new to exercise or who are contemplating participation, HITT and the acute effects of such training (as commonly delivered) is their worst nightmare.
Sweating, panting and muscles screaming (not to mention delayed onset muscle soreness!) are fine for those of us used to this stuff but sudden exposure to a non exerciser feels dreadful and can put them off for life!
There is significant evidence that exposure to high intensity exercise leads to lower exercise adherence compared to moderate intensity. People like to feel they are achieving. If they feel overwhelmed or it hurts, self efficacy is undermined and they will simply drift away.
I watched bemused as a PT in my local gym put an overweight middle aged female through a "programme". Endless dumb bell walking lunges followed by press ups followed by some weird kettle bell snatches. I watched as her bright red face turned to despair, her technique visibly deteriorating as exhaustion set in, her body language saying "please don't do this to me..."
I have not seen her in the gym since.
I spoke to a client at a health fair who was worried about the amount of weight he had put on. I asked if he did any physical activity. To my astonishment he said he had been doing HITT with a Personal Trainer for the past 10 months but hated it so much he had become depressed and had taken to comfort eating. He frequently missed sessions but had to pay anyway. When I asked him if he had told his PT how he felt he said "yes" but the PT's response was "I was there to work not mess around"!
The great pity here is that I believe that HITT has a place for all exercisers if delivered with an appropriate understanding of exercise intensity relative to individual fitness. Simple manipulation of resistance, speed, duration and work/rest ratios can challenge all individuals at a level appropriate for them and give everyone a sense of achievement instead of pain and humiliating failure. There is no such thing as a High Intensity Exercise. All exercise is relative to the fitness and skill of the individual. Instructors with the skill and the ability to modify exercises to meet the differing needs of individuals can deliver sessions whereby everyone can enjoy the fun and challenge of HITT.
Don't get me wrong...There are many trainers who do understand this and there are some people who love a good beasting! But in the context of Ad-Lib's mission to increase exercise participation and adherence by reaching out to and including non exercising populations, instructors should think twice before delivering the common "one size fits all" approach to HITT
By Robin Gargrave (Co-Director of Ad-Lib Training)