Samantha Whitaker trials Hiitgirl – a 30-minute workout that’s the equivalent of more than two hours’ traditional exercise
Hiitgirl, as you may have guessed, is high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for girls. HIIT is really having a moment – and here’s why: alternating bursts of intense, anaerobic exercise with short periods of recovery provides the same benefits as hours of cardio in just a fraction of the time (a study at Canada’s McMaster University confirmed that 2.5 hours of HIIT training provides the same benefits as 10.5 hours of slow cardio). HIIT also raises your resting metabolic rate for up to 24 hours after exercising, and significantly improves your VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen that can be taken in during an exercise session) – in other words, your endurance and stamina. What’s more, constantly switching between exercises challenges different muscle groups in turn, so that none suffer too much from wear and tear.
Hiitgirl founder Susan Dyson launched her 30-minute sessions in Harrogate, and has just opened her first studio in Crouch End. It’s a beauty: cosy but contemporary with (mostly pink) modern equipment, incense candles burning and words of encouragement on the walls. Shoes are left at the door and upbeat, but not pumping, music provides a gentle rhythm to the reps. It’s the perfect, spa-like, man-free haven for women who want to push themselves to the max without feeling intimidated. ‘We don’t promote unattainable goals,’ Susan explains. ‘We want to empower women to be fit for their shape, whatever that may be. And working out in a small group brings a whole new level of energy.’
I did the Hiitgirl Signature workout, which consists of 15 minutes of muscle-burning moves followed by 15 minutes of cardio, using various fitness toys such as bars, sliders and heavy Ugi balls. For those less ‘Hiitgirl ready’, the Foundation class is a good place to start, and there is also Hiitgirl with Balls (Ugi balls only) and Hiitgirl Pure (no equipment, just body weight). The ratio of work to recovery periods depends on your fitness level – either 30 seconds’ work and 30 seconds’ recovery, or 40:20. I did latter, and was amazed at how quickly 40 seconds passes once you get going. A large digital screen counts down the seconds of each interval, and of the whole class, so you always know exactly how much time is left. But skipping between the mats, the bars and the stationary bikes, I barely looked at the clock at all, and each time Susan called out, ‘10 more seconds’, I got a second-wind to push out the last few reps. During the recovery, I was busy getting into position for the next exercise (a bit like circuits), so I didn’t really have time to think about how hard I’d just worked. And the constant switching means you can’t possibly get bored.
At just 30 minutes, these bite-sized workouts fit neatly into a busy schedule, leaving more precious time for relaxing and socialising. After a free taster session, classes can be purchased via a pre-pay ‘carnet’ (the more you buy, the cheaper they are) and booked online. Alternatively, unlimited-access monthly membership packages are also available.
For more information, visit www.hiitgirl.com.