“HIIT workout” and “mindfulness” seem a bit like oil and water. HIIT is, by definition, intense and fast, whereas mindfulness tends to bring to mind peaceful meditation or gentle yoga. But HIIT workouts can — and should — be done as mindfully as yoga, Pilates or any other traditional mind-body class.
“Any workout can and should be mindful,” says Julia Falamas, a certified functional strength coach and functional range conditioning mobility specialist. “The way to get the most out of a workout is to be fully present in what you are doing, regardless of how fast or slow it is.”
This is particularly important in HIIT workouts, as you often do exercises meant to evoke power. “If you don’t have a full understanding of the intention of the exercise, it’s hard to do them well and elicit the response you’re supposed to get,” Falamas explains.
By ensuring you are using the correct muscles, you help prevent injuries and get the results you desire.
Follow these tips to mindfully do your HIIT workouts and reap both the mind and body benefits:
LEAVE YOUR PHONE IN YOUR LOCKER
It’s one less tempting distraction. Commit to your workout and take that sweaty selfie after class or let your friend wait 30 minutes for you to respond to a text.
KNOW THE PURPOSE BEHIND THE EXERCISES
“Ask your instructor why you’re doing certain moves. They should always have a rationale for you,” says Colleen Conlon, SweatShed studio manager and lead trainer. They should also explain how your body should feel during the movement. “If you don’t feel the muscles they are listing, speak up,” Conlon adds. They can help you correct your form.
SET AN INTENTION
During the warmup, set an intention or goal for the class. “If you want to make the most of every class, go in with a mindset of conquering the things that are challenging and reveling in the things that excite you,” Falamas says. Your intention may be to do more burpees than last time, not walk out feeling like you could have gone harder or simply appreciate being able to move your body because not everyone can.
KNOW YOUR BODY
During your warmup, also check in on how your body is feeling, which will help you know if today’s a day to push yourself or if it’s better to take it easy. If you have any injuries, tell your instructor. They can help you adjust exercises as necessary. Pay attention during class to any discomfort and ask for help if you need more adjustment.
During HIIT, there’s always the lower-intensity or rest intervals. Obey these. “As much as the work portion is important, rest is also important so we can recover and go hard the next interval,” Falamas says. “And it’s a chance check in — ‘Oh, that didn’t feel good, let me make sure I was doing that correctly.’” Then adjust during the next higher-intensity interval accordingly — which may mean going slower so you use proper form every single rep.
TAP INTO YOUR BREATH
“Your breath can be your best friend during a workout. When you feel like you can’t get one last rep but you try anyways, it’s typically due to your breathing that you pull through,” Conlon says. For HIIT, you should inhale during the less strenuous part of the exercise and exhale during the exertion portion. For example, inhale as you lower in a squat and exhale as you stand back up. Pay attention to your breath, and you’ll always move mindfully.
CHECK IN WITH YOUR GOALS
As you go through class, don’t forget about the intention or goal you set. “Do a few check-ins with yourself from the beginning to the end of class. Do you go through the motions or are you 100% invested in yourself,” Conlon asks. “Try to stay present. Give whatever your personal 100% is on that given day, remembering that some days 100% only looks like 80%, and that’s OK.”
DON’T RUSH OUT
Take at least 2–3 minutes to cool down and let your heart rate and blood pressure come back to baseline, Falamas says. “Taking time to cool off is important physiologically and mentally,” she adds.