HIIT? The recovery part matters

Hi everyone!

Before I start increasing my flying miles (aka travelling to share IoM goodness), I want to touch base with you all and ask how are you doing? ARE YOU OK?

I completely understand how overwhelming life can be so if you feel run down, unmotivated, energy-less and tired it's OK! You are not alone.

If you, however, feel great and ready to rock it, I applaud you for being in control! Keep going.

One of the ways how to manage your energy and health is physical activity and exercise. Exercise can help us or break us. High-Intensity Interval Training is a part of the equation and the primary point of this newsletter.


Firstly, whether we engage in the interval based, steady, low or high intensity cardio isn’t the question as all are important to our health. All should be programmed and performed regularly, how much and how often will vary. Read about the importance of Metabolic Flexibility HERE .

Practising true H.I.I.T (High-Intensity Interval Training) brings along a lot of benefits. It can improve vascular function, tissue hydration during the workout, help to prevent type 2 diabetes or improve Mitochondrial function and density.

This style of cardio programming is about the combination of anaerobic work (higher intensity) and aerobic recovery (longer recovery). The recovery/aerobic part is where we get most of the benefits from HIIT.


Aerobic conditioning improves cardio-vascular fitness by increasing the capacity to use oxygen. It does this by increasing our heart capacity to send blood to the muscles. It is mainly achieved through an increase in the size of the chambers, so our heart doesn’t have to beat as fast to deliver the same amount of blood. As a note, repeated exposure to anaerobic training (without the rest part) will result in thickening of the posterior wall and concentric heart hypertrophy.

After a burst of anaerobic work, our goal should be to bring the heart rate down to its baseline (well, at least as low as we can). And here is where the confusion lies. It’s not that keeping the heart rate elevated for some time is wrong; it’s just not HIIT, it’s more of a high-intensity workout with heart rate continuously above your anaerobic threshold, which has different dosage and different programming.

This confusion can have a profound effect on longevity; it can rapidly increase the risk of injury and affect the health of our heart health. Read HERE why doing too much of F45 (and similar) may not be sustainable.

The ideal work: rest scenario for HIIT is 1:1 - 1:10 (20:20, 30:60, 40:90 etc.); even better than timing it, I recommend to use a heart rate monitor to keep an eye on the HR behaviour. Programming for HIIT is an art, and we will not go there in this article. We will talk about something different — a RECOVERY phase...

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These photos above are showing two different recovery poses between the sets. One with the hands behind the head and the other with the hands on the knees (I got Darren's permission to post).

One keeps INCREASING heart rate for another 7-10 seconds after the set is done and the other start immediately DROPPING the heart rate down - see photos below.


In this case, Darren dropped his hands on the knees and focused on his breathing. You can see that his heart rate was decreasing until the little peak up…

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Here is where the photo with the hands behind the head matches this heart rate response. He stood up and started walking around, his heart rate started to raise immediately until I asked him to go back a to a recovery posture.

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Considering this little personal case the recovery posture does two main things (Brandon Marcelo PhD.)

  1. It takes the pressure off the sympathetic trunk which is located on the posterior side of the neck.

  2. It places the diaphragm in a better position to move air which also facilitates the filling of the posterior mediastinum. Which is a compartment contains the heart, the oesophagus, trachea, phrenic and cardiac nerves, the thoracic duct, thymus and lymph nodes of the chest.

I need to mention that this is not the first time I can see significant heart reaction on the proper recovery posture. I witnessed it many times during my coaching at EvoPrime Fitness or during my own training session.


If High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and its benefits is our goal, it’s worth to watch the heart rate behaviour. Every person will have completely different reaction therefore group training will be more challenging for HIIT.

Remember, undulating heart rate above and below anaerobic threshold is the main principle behind HIIT. Also, as I mentioned, HIIT has very different length dosage than steady state training and mostly also the environment of the exercise (think Lunge Curl to Press (LCTP) for HIIT vs. Rope Slam (RS) for the second).

Both exercises will increase the heart rate but the difference is in its complexity. LCTP can be more complex as the recovery is longer therefore, we can sustain the form. RS is more simple because the recovery of steady state is shorter therefore, safety is our main goal.

Whether we engage in the interval based cardio or steady cardio isn’t the question as both are important to our health. Aerobic conditioning improves cardio-vascular fitness by increasing the capacity to use oxygen (increasing the size of the chambers) whereas anaerobic conditioning and both should be programmed, how much and how often will vary.

I hope this brings more awareness to what is high-intensity interval training and help you or your clients to recover faster.