4 Alternative Activities That Mimic HIIT

athlete swimming laps

Alyssa Bialowas

Experts say that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) should not exceed 3-4 times per week to allow time for your muscles to recover and to prevent serious injury. Depending on the week, I am lucky if I can fit in two HIIT sessions, let alone exceed four sessions. I tend to get bored and I am constantly on the go, making it difficult to revolve my life around the location of my gym to train. This is why I like to participate in different forms and styles of activity and training that mimic all of the glorious effects of HIIT. With HIIT we are looking for an exercise that improves out athletic capacity and condition, as well as improving glucose metabolism. To fall within the realm of HIIT, the exercise doesn’t have to be any longer than 30 minutes, have only 3 repetitions, and as little as 20 seconds of maximum effort exercise. HIIT workouts can definitely be achieved through different avenues than a customary gym and weights session.

1. Spinning

spin classOne way to achieve HIIT goals without having to run or sprint would be spinning or cycling. Spinning is a great alternative for low-impact, high-intensity training as it is very effective for doing intervals, burning fat and calories while you ride and throughout the day. Spinning also increases your heart rate.

Another major benefit of spinning is that it is low-impact on your body leading to additional HIIT workouts in your week.

A 10-minute cycling workout you can try:

  • 2-minute warmup
  • 20-second maximum effort pedaling
  • 2-minute recovery cycle
  • 20-second maximum effort pedaling
  • 2-minute recovery cycle
  • 20-second maximum effort pedaling
  • 3-minute cooldown

A 10-minute workout in your day can do wonders to not only perk you up but still provide you the health benefits of what we usually think of for HIIT workouts.

2. Boxing

Boxers use strength training and interval training to achieve maximum fitness results and gains. If you really want to fire up your metabolism and burn fat, integrate a boxing circuit into your fitness routine. Train with a heavy bag to boost your strength and cardio for 25 minutes.  Try each move for 20 seconds and 10 seconds rest – left/right jab cross, hook and weave, and roundhouse kicks with your back legs. First, 20 seconds of jabs with the right hand, rest, immediately perform 20 seconds of right-hand crosses, rest, and do the same with the left hand. After you’re finished your crosses, maintain the same formula with hooks, weaves, and roundhouse kicks, and repeat 8 times. Not only is this a fun workout, but it also provides a creative HIIT workout alternative that works out your entire body, tones, and helps to improve reaction time and stability. Are you ready to give it a shot?

Related Article: A Midday Cardio Session May Make You A Better Worker

3. Trail Running

There are times to forget about the gym and just get outside. The outdoors is our natural playground, and finding the right park or the right trails with the right landscape and incline can provide an optimal training ground. Lots of fitness folk use trail running as their weekly off-day, to switch things up and break a solid sweat. Navigating tough terrain, tricky downhills, and intense uphill inclines will benefit your aerobic health and your overall fitness level.

Examples of turning your trail run into a HIIT workout can be as simple as the following-

  • Hill Running- Run at the maximum effort that you are capable of up a hill, then take double the amount of time it took you to run up it to walk down for your recovery.
  • Speed Work- Run at the maximum effort that you can keep consistent for 30-45 seconds, then recover by walking for 60 seconds.

Do repetitions of either of these workouts(or both!) depending on your fitness level. An activity tracker can be a helpful aid in determining how many repetitions will be best for you.

Related Article: Become A Runner At Any Age

4. Swimming

If your gym has a pool and depending on the season, take advantage of the outdoors and train in a different terrain. That terrain could be any body of water around you – a pool you can do laps in, a river, the lake or the ocean. Swimming activates your upper body muscles, especially your arm muscles and your core. It is also an efficient form of cardio and aerobic exercise, forcing you to control your breathing and build breath control. A HIIT swimming session can look like two laps of a pool at maximum capacity that you can persist at, followed by one lap of recovery, for however many repetitions you feel you are capable.



The aim for these alternatives to traditional HIIT sessions is not to make you feel guilty for taking a day off from the gym, it’s only to provide some new ideas for staying fit that could be a fun way to spruce up a workout or provide one if you’re not close to a gym. We all can get bored with a routine so picking one that you haven’t done before can bring more vigor and effectiveness back into your exercise. None of these workouts should be performed any longer than you would otherwise do your usual HIIT class, they are just ways you can use the same amount of time to elevate your heart rates similarly. Consider one of these alternatives to HIIT next time you are too far from the gym or feeling like you’re in an exercise rut.

This means you have zero excuses not to max that heart rate every day!

Related Article: The Real Benefits Of High Intensity Interval Training

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