HIIT For Beginners - How To Get Started


HIIT: Before I start, for those that don't know, HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. This means that you workout hard, at a high intensity, for periods ranging from 30 seconds to three minutes with short recovery periods in between. It's a type of training I use with many of my clients as it can get great fitness and weight loss results in less time. It's not suitable for everyone though, especially if you have injuries or joint problems, so it's best to be guided by a professional (like me!) on what's best for you and your goals.



The key to HIIT is working out at the right intensity for you. In the book Spark, they conducted an experiment to determine the level of effort of each student completing a 1 mile run every morning, as part of bigger programme to test to see if exercise first thing could improve focus, energy, and improve the grades of their students.

At first look, the PE teacher who was monitoring all the students had a good idea who was working hard, finishing fast or in a good time. He was confident that these students were the hardest workers in the class. Two girls came seemingly dawdling over the finish line to complete the mile run in a less than impressive time - to the point where the teacher verbally bashed them for not trying hard enough. It wasn’t until later when the PE teacher reviewed the heart rate monitors from the students that he realised something that would shift his perspective as a Physical Education teacher forever. Those two girls who came in last, looking like they hadn’t put much effort in at all, had pushed themselves so hard that they had hit the highest heart rates of the whole class! They were working at over 85% of their maximum heart rate. They were barely jogging by the end, but that was them pushing near they max.

The lesson here, is that HIIT can be accessed at any level of fitness, it’s entirely dependent on your current level of fitness and the percentage of your maximum heart rate that you’re working at. That means, straight off the bat, you can experience all of the amazing benefits of HIIT without having to do all of the impossible exercises that you may feel you’re just not ready for yet. For those that don't know, I also co-run a fitness company called 7 Minute Mornings and you can try one some of our free HIIT workouts HERE.



When starting a new fitness programme, or even when completing a familiar form of exercise just after a long absence your body is more than likely going to experience some muscle soreness in the following days (or even hours) afterwards. This is called DOMS  - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It’s completely normal. When you exercise you make small microscopic tears in the muscle, this leads to inflammation and the sense of pain that you experience. No one is immune to muscle soreness, but the good news is that your body will adapt to the pain and will improve and strengthen the muscle fibres and their contractions, dulling the sensation of pain.

Quick Tips: Working Out Again! There is a phenomenon called the ‘Repeated Bout Effect’, the more you exercise a muscle the faster it responds and adapts to each bout of exercise. Studies have proven that the more frequently you exercise a muscle, especially during the initial phase of adopting a new exercise routine, the faster your recovery and the less time you spend in agony.

Quick fix: Stretching, Ice, Manual manipulation (Massage), Staying Hydrated



“Core” muscles usually refer to the muscles that hold the trunk upright and steady when your limbs are moved. These are the deep muscles in your abdomen, pelvis and back and they act like a corset holding you together rather than moving your trunk. If you have weak core muscles, it’s like having a house with unstable foundations. You need strong foundations to stabilise your body, because without this, you may experience more pain or fatigue, have trouble with coordination and balance, and it can also lead to a whole host of other issues like sciatica that could have a massive impact on your posture and mobility long-term.

So, can you still do HIIT with a weak core? Well, actually you can! As we discovered above, HIIT means different things to people with different levels of physical ability and even walking or stepping on the spot can be included in a HIIT workout. The key when thinking about a HIIT workout when you know you have a weak core, is ensuring that you warm up properly, cool down afterwards, and start your workout at the right level for you.

How to strengthen your core...

Core muscles can also be referred to as postural muscles - as they activate in preparation for a change in position or movement. Postural muscles are needed daily for their functional and practical use to maintain posture and therefore do not fatigue easily. Phasic muscles tend to be bigger muscles groups which are used in movement and do fatigue easily, often needing many days to fully recover. The beauty of postural muscles, core muscles that is, is that they can be worked daily! That means we can put work in every day to get a stronger core. This is fantastic news!!!

Here is a link right now to a Beginner Bodyweight Workout that will help to develop your core strength today. Try it here.



Being injured can feel like one of the most frustrating experiences in the world - I know, I’ve been there. Knowing that it’s not the motivation that’s the issue, but the physical limitation stopping you from getting out there and working out, can be infuriating! But don’t worry, I have some workarounds for you…

Yes you can still do a HIIT workout when you’re injured but you need to carefully consider the below:

Where’s the injury? If you have injured your back, knees, achilles, ankle or foot, then any high-impact or explosive jumping movements should be avoided entirely, or severely cut down. Smaller joints like an elbow or a wrist can be managed differently, adjusting and making modifications for floor based exercises - but you should be able to proceed with the standing HIIT exercises with caution.

Sense check - When testing out each exercise as you go and seeing how your body responds, it may be tempting to push through the pain, but you could exacerbate your injury if you continue to exercise whilst something feels uncomfortable. Sometimes you have to give your body the time it needs to fully recover properly. You need to know when you can safely work around your injury and when the smart thing to do is stop. If in doubt, talk to your doctor before attempting any HIIT while injured. He or she will know your real limitations and be best able to help guide your workout routines while your body heals.

Bodyweight Modifications - When lower impact versions of the same exercise aren’t possible, we can opt for an exercise modification which will work the same muscles but in a slightly different way. Bodyweight exercises are a great way of staying in shape when injured, with a much lower impact on the joints. Also, it’s still possible to reach that HIIT feeling and the benefits that come from it, if you workout using the right exercises, hitting the whole body and exercising at a faster pace to keep the heart rate up.



Step 1: Test your current level of fitness using a basic fitness test to determine the correct intensity for you to kick-start your workouts (try the 7 Minute Mornings test and workouts for free HERE)

Step 2: Start slow and warm up key muscles like calfs, quads, hamstrings, and stretch them out afterwards.

Step 3: Keep it regular. For best results do it daily. Not for long, but daily!

Step 4: Increase intensity when you feel comfortable with the current workout (after about 3 weeks) to keep challenging your body and experiencing results.  

Step 5: Don’t give up! Working out is hard, and HIIT especially is not the easiest workout you will ever have, but it’s worth it and your body will love you for it. If you need to rest, or go slower, then do that, but don’t give up on yourself - you can do this!

You can follow along with me in this one too:

For more help with HIIT or any other exercise contact me HERE.

To Your Health,