What to Expect from Your First HIIT Class

Walking into your first fitness class, especially one focused on HIIT exercises, can be intimidating. When I first started working out, I didn’t know what to expect and was worried about looking silly in front of everyone in the room. But after going to a few classes and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I felt stronger and more empowered in my body, like I could do anything!

If you’ve never heard of HIIT before, that’s okay. If you’ve heard of it but felt like it would be too hard for you, I’ve been there too. I’m here to tell you all about HIIT so that you feel confident taking that first step into the studio, because trust me, it will be worth it.

What is HIIT?

"HIIT" stands for High Intensity Interval Training. It combines short bursts where you give 100% of your energy, followed by a longer recovery period of activity. For example, on a treadmill this would consist of a 30 second sprint, followed by a one minute walk on incline.

HIIT classes are meant to get your heart rate up and help you burn fat faster, which occurs because this type of training is supposed to burn calories even after your stop working out, compared to a typical cardio routine. HIIT also burns these calories faster during the high bursts of training, making both the amount of calories and length of calories burned higher on average.

HIIT classes can be set up in a variety of ways

The AMRAP technique, which stands for "as many reps as possible" follows these time constraints, and exercisers are expected to do as many reps as they can until the timer hits zero. This makes sure that you are working your heart the whole time, and also utilizing your time to get more reps in. 

The Pyramid technique increases the amount of time spent doing the high energy portion of the workout. The rest period would stay the same, but the high energy workout may start at 20 seconds, then increase to 30 seconds then 40, and then going back down to 30 seconds and 20 seconds.

For example:

  • 20 seconds on; 30 seconds off
  • 30 seconds on; 30 seconds off
  • 40 seconds on; 30 seconds off
  • 30 seconds on; 30 seconds off
  • 20 seconds on; 30 seconds off

These techniques and more can be found in a variety of HIIT classes, depending on what's available on your campus or around your university town. HIIT can cover a mix of cardio and weights, treadmill only classes, or a bodyweight-focused classes. No matter which one you choose, they will follow this similar type of pattern. 

Related: These Are My Favorite Instagram Accounts That Keep Wellness Achievable & Real

How to prepare for class

During a typical class, expect a lot of movement and sweat. I recommend wearing something lightweight you can easily move in. When I first started taking classes, I would always end up having to adjust my shorts during my workout, which was annoying, so now I like to wear leggings instead. You may experience some running or jumping throughout the class too, so wear some supportive sneakers. Any equipment you use will likely be provided by your instructor, unless otherwise noted.

Finally, you’ll want to make sure you have a water bottle to stay hydrated before and throughout the workout!

During the class

At the start of class, typically your instructor will let you know what equipment you’ll need for the day. You’ll be able to set up a section for yourself with a mat, and you will want to make sure you have adequate room to move. You will do a warmup, and then your instructor should take you on a series of drills incorporating that mixture of high and low intensity movements. You’ll alternate between movements for the allotted time, and then have a quick break between drills for a water break and chance to catch your breath.

This class moves fast, so before you know it, you’ll be on to the next drill! The high intensity section can include different cardio movements that pick up your heart rate. Some classes may do cardio in a studio setting, and some may use equipment like a treadmill. During the low intensity section, you may use weights, do partner work, or do a bodyweight workout. This section allows your heart rate to come back down, but keeps you moving throughout the class with focus on strength training.

After the class

Congratulations, you made it! After your first class you’ll feel tired, sweaty and accomplished. The most important thing you can do to recover is to stretch, and make sure that you give your body a proper amount of time to cool down so that your muscles can too. Feel free to reward yourself with a nice warm shower and a smoothie, because you deserve it.

After my first class I remember how good I felt and couldn’t wait to get back again. It helped me get in great shape and feel good about myself, how strong I felt and how proud I was to be able to get through those workouts.

Overall, HIIT is a great workout that challenges you both physically and mentally. The class can be hard and difficult at times, but it also brings a sense of empowerment and accomplishment. Don’t be nervous going into the class, everyone is in the same boat as you, and I promise you won’t regret it.

Related: What to Expect from Your First Yoga Class

If you're still unsure about trying your first class, I recommend trying a routine at home or by yourself at the gym first. You can follow @hiitburn or @    hittmax on Instagram to see video examples of HIIT workouts and inspiration. You can also follow my own fitness account fitfabkate_ and reach out to me if you have any more questions or just want to chat about fitness!