High-Intensity Interval Training 101: Complete Guide & Best HIIT Workouts

Jeff Baldelli
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What Exactly is HIIT?

HIIT is all about short, intense workouts. These workouts are similar to Tabata training, with most of the benefits coming from them lasting between 20 to 60 minutes, or even less.

Within the context of this book, which is a beginner’s guide to high-intensity interval training, we’ll be focusing on workouts that take no longer than 20 minutes.

HIIT (more on this acronym later) is a form of cardiovascular exercise that is used by individuals all over the world. Unlike traditional cardio, which is passive, HIIT is a more active form of exercise that involves periods of resistance or intense aerobic exercise, followed by periods of rest.

Because of the nature of the exercises used in HIIT sessions, the intensity level is usually significantly higher than during a LISS or Fartlek stationary session. Having said that, there are plenty of non-moving exercises that could be used for HIIT sessions as well, such as shadowboxing, mountain climbing, and even sprinting.

Common HIIT Categories

HIIT sessions are usually separated into two main categories, meaning you will either participate in aerobic exercises (usually the Tabata protocol) or exercises that are centered on weightlifting and strength training.

What are the Benefits and How Can I Create a Workout to Maximize Them?

High-intensity interval training increases our resting metabolic rate by 30-50% for at least 24 hours after training, making your body more efficient at burning calories at rest and helping you lose weight faster. It also increases post-exercise oxygen consumption, which is also a key way our body powers our energy needs.

Increased Endurance

HIIT has been shown to improve our endurance capacity more effectively than low intensity steady state cardio training.

Fat Loss

By increasing fat oxidation, HIIT can boost our metabolism and help us burn more fat, even during times of rest.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

Not only does high-intensity interval training improve our cardiovascular health by increasing our endurance, but it also helps us lose weight and, because of a decreased risk of obesity and associated conditions, may be an effective tool in the fight against heart disease.

Decreased Risk of Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic Syndrome is a group of risk factors that increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It includes excess weight around the waist, along with increased blood pressure, increased blood glucose, and unhealthy cholesterol levels.

High-intensity interval training is very effective in combating these risk factors and, due to the body’s increased sensitivity to insulin, may be an even more effective intervention in people with metabolic syndrome.

Are There Any Drawbacks to HIIT Training?

There are some possible negative effects when it comes to high-intensity interval training.

Sweating

Some people find high-intensity interval training to be incredibly sweaty. And yes, we mean very sweaty.

The amount of sweat you’ll experience from HIIT workouts may be unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Many people find the sheer amount of sweat to be overwhelming, but there are ways to reduce the sweatiness associated with HIIT. Work out in a cooler environment and use body sprays to keep everything under control.

Lactate

The amount of sweat from HIIT-style workouts may be great, but if you turn your workout into a sauna, you’ll also get a lot of lactic acid buildup in your muscles. This can make everything a little bit harder to manage and make your muscles feel more fatigued and your head a little bit woozy.

Luckily, this feeling goes away pretty quickly, but it can be an unpleasant thing in the moment. If this start-and-stop feeling is something you’re worried about, you can always try to do less intense workouts, which will decrease the buildup of lactate.

High Levels of Oxygen Consumption

One thing you have to keep in mind is that HIIT workouts take a lot more oxygen than your normal, steady-state workouts.

Tabata vs HIIT: How are They the Same? How are They Different?

One of the most popular workout routines is High-Intensity Interval Training, also known as HIIT. The leading experts in fitness like Les Mills, who are setting trends with their workout plans and exercise videos, already have many workouts that utilize HIIT.

Apart from that, new studies are coming out that show positive health benefits of HIIT workouts. The most famous one is the Tabata study, which shows that HIIT can help you lose weight fast.

To help you get the most out of your HIIT routines, we are showing you the basics and the differences between Tabata and HIIT.

Both workouts are intended to make you sweat in a very short amount of time.

In both cases, you spend your time exercising at a high intensity for a very short time period of usually 4 to 7 minutes.

Tabata

The most popular form of HIIT:

20 second high intensity exercise, 10 seconds rest, 8 intervals

This is the most popular way to do HIIT, and it came out of the Tabata study, which made it quite famous in the world of fitness.

HIIT

30-second high intensity interval, then 60-second low intensity rest interval, 8 intervals.

This is the most popular type of HIIT, and you will see many popular programs using it.

What is the difference?

Crossfit vs HIIT: How are They the Same? How are They Different?

HIIT is similar to Crossfit in that they are both forms of intense training. The differences are that Crossfit focuses on cardiovascular and strength training in high volume, while HIIT stays more traditional to its name of high-intensity, low-volume.

HIIT does incorporate the elements of the Olympic Lifts, or the snatch and clean and jerk, while Crossfit doesn’t, which will make HIIT much more specific towards track and field sports.

Both of these high-intensity training methods can help you maximize your cardio, as well as your strength and endurance.

The exercises that each uses are similar. There are some that are used with HIIT and not Crossfit, and vice versa.

However, their style and application are different. The repetitions completed by a Crossfit athlete are much higher than an HIIT athlete, and the time spent recovering between exercises much less.

Crossfit is a great way to get all of your body’s muscles growing and staying healthy, while HIIT is a great way to get your heart pumped, and your muscles burning.

While both are high-intensity fitness, the proper training and diet needed to take them to the elite level of competition is on another level entirely.

This is for a few reasons, the primary one being the lack of complete recovery that Crossfit has to offer, compared to HIIT.

HIIT Workouts and Exercises

In case you don’t know, a HIIT workout is one which alternates short and intense bursts of exercise with periods of rest, although the overall amount of time you spend working out is the same as it would be if you were jogging.

This has the effect of mobilizing your fat stores in order to generate energy, and making sure that your body can adapt in ways to improve your fitness. It’s also a fantastic way to burn fat, and a good way to speed up weight loss.

In general, you should aim for one minute to three minutes of intense activity, with a minute or more of rest in between each burst.

The best part is that it’s incredibly effective, and depending on what you choose to do, can be a lot of fun. You can include HIIT sessions in your routine at any time, and the best part is that since it involves such short bursts of exercises and activity, you can easily fit it into your schedule. It’s also a great option if you want to exercise but don’t have much time, as you can still get a good level of cardiovascular fitness while also working on your endurance and endurance.

15 Minute HIIT Workout

High-Intensity Interval Training: The Ultimate Weight Loss Plan

Conclusion

Even though HIIT seems very niche and specific, the truth is that it is a very effective method for improving your endurance, strength, and speed. With HIIT increasing in popularity, it’s likely that you’ll either be doing it if you support fitness, or you’re going to see it while hitting the gym.

If you want to take the next step in becoming a better athlete, or even in improving your ability to function in your day to day life, HIIT is one of the fastest ways you can do it. With the ability to combine all of these multiple benefits, HIIT is the tool your fitness routine needs in order to become an effective one.

30 Minute HIIT Workout

Perform an intense sprint on the treadmill, bike or elliptical for 20 – 60 seconds. Work to complete failure (the point at which you cannot maintain your effort for one more second). Rest for 2 minutes. Repeat 10 – 20 times or until you have worked for a total of 30 minutes.

You will be amazed by how exhausted you are. The next day, you will feel the muscles in your legs aching, similar to the ACUTE muscle soreness that you’ve felt a day or two after strenuous exercise.

The difference is that this form of muscle soreness (But what about DOMS? Don’t worry, we’ll get to it) is caused by lactic acid buildup in the muscle. It’s excessive fluid swelling caused by the build-up of lactic acid, which interferes with the normal muscle function.

Another downside of this kind of exercise is that it can place a lot of strain on your joints and ligaments.

Some common injuries sustained with this method of training are shin splints, runner’s knee, and plantar fasciitis.

Incredibly, interval training can benefit you both during and after exercise.

Fat Burning Cardio-Specific HIIT Workout

25-Min HIIT Workout: High-Intensity Interval Training For Fitness

10-Min High-Intensity Bursts of Cardio

Aerobic vs Anaerobic: Which Is Better for Weight Loss?

Improve Overall Physical Physique

Whether you’re working out to lose weight or gain muscle, interval training can help you achieve these goals more quickly and more effectively.

The variety of interval training ensures that you will burn a greater number of calories than with prolonged exercise, meaning that you can see results faster.

It is also evident that the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest, the better your body composition will be. Interval training also helps increase lean muscle while burning a higher number of calories than other forms of exercise.

This means that you can lose weight faster, resulting in a lower body fat percentage and better muscles, even though you might not see a drastic change in body weight scale.

Psychological Benefits

Cardio training is also a good choice for improving mood. It has been proven that exercising and cardio training release endorphin, a chemical that is responsible for reducing pain and creating feelings of well-being.

I hope this post has helped you better understand why interval training is so great for all types of athletes.

HIIT Dumbbell Workout

This is a very simple workout you can do at home. To start, you need a set of dumbbells. You can even do this same workout with a pair of soup cans (the kind without the pull-tab at the top).

Requirements:

  • Dumbbells
  • Wall

There’s no specific amount of reps you need to do in each workout or how to split them up. Just do one exercise, rest briefly, and do another. Repeat the process throughout the workout. Exercise and rest combination can change from day to day. Remember, circuit training is the most effective HIIT workouts.

The dumbbell workout above targets the whole body, including shoulders, chest, abs, back, legs, and arms.

Here are some pointers for the workout so you can get the most out of it:

Do the push-ups with one leg in the air. Your core will get a great workout from this variation of the standard push-up.

Do the bicep curl on your toes. This will activate your calves better than the standard way of doing it. Do not excessively bend your knees to get the curl done.

Do jumping jacks to get the heart rate up and to warm up the legs.

Do the deadlift with a flat back. Proper form is essential for this part. Lumbar spine must stay flat.

HIIT Equipment

There are a lot of different kinds of equipment that can be used for HIIT training, and the variety is likely to increase with time and as technology evolves.

It’s a good idea to connect with a professional personal fitness trainer to find the right types of equipment that are right for you.

For reference, here are the most basic types of equipment that are commonly used in HIIT workouts:

Resistance Bands:

Resistance bands are simple, stretchable loops of nylon. When stretched, these bands provide tension that can be used as an alternative to weights. Resistance bands are great because they’re portable and people use them for everything from heavy squats to full range-of-motion barbell exercises.

It is extremely important that you understand how to safely use and store your resistance bands. You should also check out this article to learn more about which exercises are best for you.

Kettlebells:

Kettlebells are probably the best (but not necessarily most popular) form of training equipment that you will find in a professional boxing gym. Also known as a girya in Russia, these cast iron weights that have a unique shape and can be swung around in such a way that they tend to emphasize explosive motions and unconventional movements.

Rogue Rubber Hex Dumbbells

Features:

  • Perfect for powerlifting, cross training, circuit training, jogging, aerobics, ab exercises, strength training, and more
  • Designed to enable a secure hold so the dumbbells won’t move when you’re lifting
  • Made from rubber, which provides a secure grip for a challenging workout
  • Extremely durable so you can lift quickly without the concern of them wearing out quickly
  • Moving parts are molded to stay fixed when training
  • Rubber hexagon-shape ensures a stable, comfortable, and firm grip
  • Intended for use by both men and women
  • Designed with six rubber-covered weights that allow you to mix and match
  • Suitable for various exercises such as spinning, aerobics, pull-ups, rope climbing, and circuit training

Note: This product is not for children

Specifications:

Color: Multi-color

Material: Rubber

Weight: 50 pound

Warranty: 90 day warranty

Dimensions: 6.5 x 16.5 x 16.5 inches

Customer Reviews:

Reviewers gave the product an average of 5 out of 5 stars, which reflects extremely positive reviews from customers.

Rogue Kettlebells

Rogue Fitness manufactures and supplies the highest quality functional fitness equipment. Check out more of their equipment here.

Staying Healthy with Interval Training

What you do in your “off time” is just as important as what you do when you’re lifting weights!

Staying active is the best thing you can do for your health. When we exercise, we actually stimulate the growth of new cells.

The cells that are in the body and are not getting use quickly weaken and die off. Every time we exercise, we are strengthening our cells to become stronger.

The more we exercise, the healthier, more resilient, faster, and stronger we will become.

As we mature, our cells in our muscles become weaker and less healthy and are replaced by new cells. When we are active we are actually stimulating the growth of new cells in our muscles.

Exercise stimulates the production of muscle cells by increasing the production of protein. In the next few moments, exercise will begin to increase your protein demand. During this time, you will replenish your muscle fuel storage, namely muscle glycogen, so your next workout is even more effective.

Warm-Up: The First Step to Your Weight Loss Success

What are the Best Shoes for HIIT?

Shoes are extremely important for HIIT. You don’t want to end up getting injured, so you want to make sure that you have the best shoes possible to perform HIIT.

However, finding the right pair of shoes for your HIIT workout is important. Here are some tips that might help:

The best shoes for HIIT are running shoes

Many people end up using the wrong type of shoes for HIIT. While it’s true that most shoes can still remain comfortable while you are HIIT training, you need a certain type of shoe in order to get the full enjoyment and effectiveness of HIIT.

The best shoes for HIIT are running shoes. They’re light and flexible, meaning that they’re going to be able to easily absorb the impact when you strike with your foot on the ground. You’ll also be able to move around quick, which is one of the very important parts of high-intensity interval training.

Multiple shoe brands are very good at creating running shoes that will work for your HIIT plan!

Custom-Made Shoes Might Be an Option

If you really want to get some extra benefits from HIIT, then you might want to consider getting shoes that are made just for HIIT activities.

Some of the Best HIIT Apps 2020

Questionably one of the biggest brands in the world, Nike has created some of the most sought after mobile apps to date.

The Nike app has a number of features that you can utilize in your daily life, but when it comes to exercise and fitness, you can use the Nike Training Club app.

The Nike Training Club app comes with a personal training plan that has a few exercise routines to choose from.

These include similar exercises that can be performed with a yoga mat, a few squats, and exercises that require a lounge ball to conduct the exercise.

The app also has an expansive catalog of exercises to choose from, from cardio exercises to those to increase strength. The app also has videos to explain how to conduct each exercise, to make sure you can effectively follow through with the workout.

The biggest upside to this app is that once you start the free trial, you can further upgrade to premium, which includes more workouts, training programs, and a lot more.

The main downside aside from paying a dollar to get access to the entire app, the app does need an internet subscription to connect to the service.

Some may not want to sign up for the subscription, but it’s an effective app for workouts, so if you’re a trainer or love working out, you may enjoy this app.

FAQ About HIIT

No, unfortunately we don’t have the best HIIT workout for you. That being said, we’re working hard to create a more detailed HIIT training guide.

However, we have several HIIT workout plans that will fit your needs, as well as the HIIT workout schedule that you can use to build a routine.

Am I Too Old for HIIT Workouts?

No, you’re definitely not too old for HIIT workouts, and some of the best HIIT workouts for beginners involve older people.

It’s important to understand that just because you’re an older person doesn’t mean you can’t do HIIT workouts, or can’t do them without complications. In fact, you probably won’t feel as sore after going through an HIIT program than you would after a longer and less intense cardio routine, such as a marathon.

There are, however, a handful of factors to consider. A sensible HIIT workout will help reduce the amount of injuries on an older body, and it also takes into account the slowdown in our nervous, muscular, and cardiovascular systems.

How often should I do HIIT workouts?

Another big question is how often you should mix up your cardio training routine and cross train with HIIT workouts.

Another recent study discovered that HIIT training may be up to three times more effective than steady cardio training, so it is a good idea to do it on a more regular basis .

Another study found that you can replace one-third of your weekly running mileage with high-intensity workouts and you will get the same cardiovascular benefits. This means that you can make your workouts more intense, efficient and effective without cutting into your weekly mileage. However, this works for only one in three workouts, with the other workouts being at steady intensities.

Steady or Stable State Cardio Workouts: These workouts are done at a steady pace and make up the majority of your cardio workouts in your training.

HIIT Cardio Workouts: High intensity intervals (30-90 seconds) with short periods of rest (30-90 seconds). High intensity interval training workouts burn more calories in less time compared to steady state cardio training.

Steady State Cardio Workouts: These are workouts in which you exercise continuously at a steady pace.

High Intensity Interval Training Workouts: These are workouts in which you exercise at a steady pace for brief periods of time, followed by short bouts of high-intensity work.

What kind of exercise is HIIT?

Short for High-Intensity Interval Training, HIIT is a form of exercise which involves very short and high-intensity workouts.

In contrast to regular workouts (such as jogging, cycling, walking, etc.), HIIT sessions can last between 20 seconds and 5 minutes, meaning that the workouts are performed in the range of 10 to 100 times a second.

11 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) burns more calories than a 3-mile jog.

In fact, a scientific study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that six subjects who cycled for 19 minutes on a treadmill, during which they went at the maximum level of their capacity for 2.5 minutes, burned about 662 calories, while 32 minutes of cycling at a moderate pace burned some 548 calories.

Benefits of HIIT

HIIT leads to more fat loss and muscle gain than regular training.

According to a Turkish study, the HIIT group managed to burn 27 percent more calories than the control group.

In total, after the HIIT workouts, the subjects lost an average of 2 kg (4.4 lbs) of body fat and 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs) of lean tissue mass because of muscle gain. Additionally, HIIT led to a 2.4 percent decrease in body weight and 5.5 percent decreases in body mass index and waist circumference.

Is HIIT good for fat loss?

One of the common questions and concerns about high-intensity interval training is whether or not this style of training is effective for fat loss?

That’s a common misconception, especially considering this style of training. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to burn a lot of calories.

However, when it comes to burning fat, is interval training any better than cardio in general?

For cardiovascular exercise in general, fat loss is a huge benefit. However, it won’t be the only benefit that comes from it.

HIIT is great for fat loss because it stresses the body and causes the body to go through some physiological changes that are ideal for burning fat.

Interval training is ideal for fat loss in particular because it increases the levels of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) hormones, such as epinephrine (adrenaline) and noradrenaline.

This is great news for your body because when the levels of epinephrine and noradrenaline are elevated, this causes the body to mobilize fat for energy usage. What’s even better is that these hormones stay elevated for a short duration of time after the HIIT workout. This has been shown to improve anaerobic endurance, increase fat usage, and enhance muscle cell adaptation.

Does HIIT build muscle?

If you want to build muscle, then probably not. If you want to maintain or improve the muscle tone you currently have, then yes.

We discussed the benefits of HIIT above, but let’s take a closer look at what it can do for you in terms of muscle building.

The first important thing is that HIIT sessions can range anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes long. This means you can tailor an HIIT workout to target certain muscle groups that need a little more attention than others.

Here’s a quick overview of the four main benefits HIIT has to offer when it comes to muscle building:

Increases Muscle Mass

This may seem counterintuitive because you’re not on the treadmill for several hours and as a result, you’re not getting the same level of cardiovascular output as if you could run for 30-60 minutes continuously.

When you compare two people of the same age, gender, and weight, the person with the higher VO2 max can run for longer. More specifically, his or her body can expend more energy in the same amount of time.

In running terms, that means a lighter person would be able to run on a treadmill for longer before getting tired.

What do I eat before a HIIT workout?

HIIT is an effective training method for improving your fitness level in a much shorter time span. However, it's crucial that you fuel your body with the right nutrients and fluids before hand in order to reap the benefits of HIIT.

So what do I eat before a HIIT workout? What should I be eating before a HIIT workout? In this article we will discuss the importance of eating before a HIIT workout. We will also share a few recipes that will help you get started.

Determining when to Eat before Your HIIT Workout

HIIT workouts can be very intense and if you are not properly fueled up before you start training, you are bound to hit a wall at some point. Your blood sugar levels will dip and your energy will ebb. This is usually the point where you give up. This is also the point where you miss out on all the benefits of HIIT workouts.

Therefore, it is crucial that you fuel your body with the right nutrients and fluids before you start your HIIT workout.

Adrenaline and Anabolic hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone (GH) are elevated after a HIIT workout. It is therefore important to eat before your HIIT workout so that the body has enough nutrients to kick start the recovery/ repair process.

What do I eat after a HIIT workout?

What to do after a HIIT workout?

You often hear about post-workout meal supplements – the ones that you usually have to purchase from the gym shop or order online to complement your workout. But is it necessary?

You can actually pack your snack menu with some good food that can fuel your body for hard training!

Here are some of the best foods to eat after a workout to gain lean muscle mass.

And to spare you some extra research, here is a list of the top 11 post-workout snacks.

1. Protein

Protein is the king of muscle building, recovery, and anti-aging. Your body has natural repair and rebuilding systems that require it! Also, eating protein immediately after a workout will maximize the benefits of your workout.

Studies show that all the simple and fast-digesting protein sources you find in raw eggs, brown eggs, organic fat-free milk, and plain nonfat yoghurt are more effective than their protein-fortified alternatives (whey protein, casein protein, etc.) at improving muscle growth and preventing muscle breakdown.

This means that to get the most out of your workout, it's best to consume a high-quality protein source immediately after your workout. Examples of high-quality protein include:

  • Lean red meats
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Fish
  • Eggs

2. Vegetables

Is HIIT good for your heart?

Scientific evidence suggests that interval training can do wonders for the heart.

A recent study divided 90 people in two groups. One group did moderate-intensity cardio while the other one did high-intensity interval cardio.

The people who did the high-intensity interval cardio saw their heart atriums expand after the workout, while the people who did the moderate-intensity cardio didn’t.

This is good news for those who want to improve their cardiovascular health, because it shows that interval training has the potential to strengthen both the heart muscle and the heart valves.

You could also argue that the increased strength of the heart valves is one of the biggest reasons why interval training is so good for the heart.

While the feeling of having a healthy heart is great by itself, the positive effects on the heart also mean other systemic benefits. Your heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout your body. The more efficiently it does that, the better.

Which is why your blood circulation can also benefit from interval training.

The improved blood circulation due to regular interval training will deliver more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, which will help you work out harder, especially during high-intensity intervals.

When is the best time of day for HIIT?

Deciding the best time of day to do your workout depends a lot on your own schedule. As we’ll see in the benefits, it can be a very effective way of burning calories.

Nevertheless, creating a real HIIT methodology takes a lot of time, so it’s likely that you won’t have a lot of spare time to get in a great workout.

If you work 50 hours a week, it’s quite likely that 5-10 minutes is all you will have to do your HIIT workout. This might not sound like much, but if you can get the most out of it, then it’s going to pay off.

If you love doing HIIT workouts, then other factors to consider when doing it are sleep and workload. It’s not a coincidence that a lot of professional athletes like to work out late in the evening.

Late in the evening, many workplaces are on a slower pace, which means that employees have more free time to take care of their personal business. Moreover, athletes have to adjust to a later sleep schedule to fit in the games on time.

If your time to workout is limited, then HIIT training in the morning can be incredibly useful. It will get you the most bang for your buck.

How high should I keep my heart rate when doing HIIT?

High-intensity interval training is good for optimizing the amount of fat you burn.

As you train, your body becomes more and more efficient at dealing with the stress of exercise. In a perfect world, this would make your body go into overdrive and burn as much fat as possible.

Unfortunately, your body isn’t so perfect.

As it becomes more adept at dealing with exertion, you have to start pushing yourself harder to keep burning fat.

So how do you raise the intensity enough and in a way that’s still manageable?

This is where HIIT comes in.

HIIT is a way of training with short bouts of high-intensity activity followed by periods of rest. The high-intensity activity during these periods helps to keep your body working hard, thus burning fat and maintaining lean muscle mass.

The intense nature of HIIT helps deal with inhibition, which is the tendency for your body to maintain the status quo as you exercise.

When your body is activated by HIIT, it releases many different hormones that specifically work to improve your metabolism and increase your body’s ability to burn fat at rest.

HIIT, when combined with a proper diet, is a very effective way of losing fat.

How effective?

Summary

As you can see, there are many reasons why interval training can help you improve your health and fitness. In general, this workout style has a lot going for it.

The most obvious advantage of interval training is that you can include intervals in just about any traditional type of workout, whether it’s running, cycling, or swimming. As long as you have a good idea of what to do and you resist the temptation to do too much too soon, you should be able to safely add intervals into your workout routine.

As we mentioned previously, interval training is one of the best ways to lose fat, but it’s by no means the only way! Read on to learn about another effective fat-burning method. It involves keeping your fats:

High-Intensity Interval Training 101: Complete Guide & Best HIIT Workouts

How to Structure Your Interval Workouts

There are different ways to structure your interval workouts. Consider the following as you contemplate and plan out your own interval workout routine: