If you take a couple of minutes to look up HIIT workouts, you will find that you can get killer abs in 12 minutes a day or get ‘summer shredded’ in 30 days. You can blast fat, look sexy, improve your cardio, build your butt — get the body of your dreams with any number of 10 minute, 11 minute, 12 minute or any number of minute long HIIT workouts.
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Workout which basically means that you do something really hard for a short interval of time and then you rest for some interval of time. It’s pretty much the opposite of what I like to do for exercise, which is going for long, slow runs, but I have found that I can use the idea behind HIIT to get a lot done in my daily life.
It started a few years ago when I was heating up my coffee in the microwave. You may find microwaves offensive or think reheated coffee is gross, but I have a busy life with a lot of distractions so it’s rare that I can finish a whole cup of coffee while it’s still hot. I put my mug in and set the timer for 30 seconds.
Staring at the seconds ticking down, 30 seconds felt like such a long time. With a full day of work, parenting and the dailiness of household chores ahead, I decided to see what I could get done in 30 seconds. I grabbed the clean silverware from the dishwasher and sorted the spoons, knives and forks into their little coffin-like little baskets as quickly as I could. Almost breathless, I slammed the drawer shut just as the microwave beeped. And that was it — I was hooked on the HIIT life.
I started taking previously unconsidered intervals of time to frantically get things done around the house. One minute to microwave oatmeal, 9 minutes to boil pasta, 7 minutes per side to grill chicken breasts. During these intense intervals, I would work furiously and intensely to conquer the dull but necessary tasks of daily life. I scrawled numbers onto messy checks, sealed and stamped envelopes and then sprinted to the mailbox just in time to make it back for the beep of the timer. I swept the floor aggressively and fast, beads of sweat forming on my forehead as I watched the seconds on the timer tick down. Sometimes I would run around the house, gathering up dirty laundry in a basket and then dash downstairs to put it in the washing machine. Other times, I would use my intervals to try to wipe down all of the light switches in the house or scrub out the drawers of the refrigerator. Trust me, these are not tasks that I enjoy or find satisfying, but in the context of a challenge and with the potential to put them quickly behind me, I tackled them with energy and excitement!
After months and years of perfecting this practice, I can say that living the HIIT life helps me take care of lots of the tedious tasks that used to hang over me or slog through, letting them take up way too much of my time and energy. When I know I have a bunch of things I need to take care of, I will set an arbitrary timer and challenge myself to get as much done as I can in a short burst. At night, I’ll set a timer for 15 minutes and rush around the house putting shoes, backpacks and papers where they go, avoiding distraction and keeping my laser focus on getting as much done as I can before the timer goes off and I can rest and relax with much of the tedium behind me.
Unfortunately, living the HIIT life hasn’t given me stacked abs or awesome arms. But it has helped me keep my laundry done, my house cleaner and my bills and mail taken care of. It’s even helped me write faster — I actually set a timer for 25 minutes when I sat down to write this piece!
The best part of living the HIIT life is the rest intervals. After a jam-packed ten minute session of productivity, it’s great to take a minute to read a magazine, drink some lemonade or have a cup of coffee — but wait — doesn’t that coffee need to be warmed up? And just like that…let the interval begin!