Named the number one fitness trend in 2014, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a way for many trainers to fit an effective amount of exercise in your busy routine.
However, this form of exercise – a series of short, heart-pumping cardio and weight-bearing routines, combined with periods of low-intensity active recovery – can come at a cost.
In recent years, the HIIT craze 'CrossFit' has come under fire as a cause of exercise-related injuries. After a man was paralyzed earlier this year from a CrossFit weight routine gone wrong, doctors including Dr. Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine expert at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, have reported seeing many HIIT and CrossFit-related injuries resulting from bad technique and the "competitive nature to...do really high numbers of reps."
To make matters worse, in Pennsylvania there are no laws governing the certification of personal fitness trainers. Basic fitness certifications, including those for HIIT programs, can come with only a weekend workshop and no required practice hours, so be sure to ask the right questions to keep yourself safe.
"How are you certified and how much training do you have?"
Without regulation, virtually anyone can claim to be a fitness instructor. A lack of education on how the body works can lead to bad form that causes injuries. Make sure your trainer was certified with a nationally accredited fitness agency and ask what their background and training process entailed.
"Have you worked with injured clients before?"
When done improperly, HIIT programs can cause a lot of damage to the shoulders, knees, and back. If you have an existing injury, get permission from your doctor to practice and ensure that your trainer knows how to properly modify any routines to promote healing, rather than cause further injury.
"Are your HIIT sessions 'one-size-fits-all' or do you go at my pace?"
According to Michael Fredickson, the director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Stanford Hospital, the "one-size-fits-all" routines are the ones that result in the most injuries. An instructor who barks at students to jump higher, go faster, or lift weights they are not ready for will inevitably lead to issues. Make sure the instructor moves with you at a rate in which you are challenged, yet comfortable, and uses the safest equipment for your body.
Fitness trainers can serve as the motivators that lead you to better health, but be sure you know your HIIT instructor's experience and qualifications so you can have the safest workout possible.