Sarah Mandala, a personal trainer at Kinetic fitness center, explains why high-intensity interval training should be part of your workout routine.
By Vicki Hogue-Davies
Touted for its ability to burn fat as well as increase strength and endurance, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an exercise method that’s gaining popularity. The workout switches between short periods of extreme activity that pushes the heart rate into the anaerobic zone, and small breaks with less intensive movements. In addition to helping decrease abdominal fat and maintain muscle mass, the benefits of HIIT include improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels along with cardiovascular health and fitness, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
To learn more about this workout trend, we talked with Sarah Mandala, a former professional volleyball player and a personal trainer at Kinetic, a new fitness center that opened in February for Irvine Co.’s office tenants at Newport Center. Although Kinetic is private, the gym offers public classes in HIIT as well as spin, yoga and boxing at its group training studio, The Zone. Here, Mandala discusses the benefits of kicking your workout into high-intensity mode, how to get started and what to expect during a class.
What physical activities take place during HIIT classes at The Zone?
The classes … run on endurance, power and strength. It is kind of like circuit training. You spend six minutes on endurance on the rowing machine, for example, then transfer over to six minutes of power, which is working more with the kettlebells and power ropes and sandbags. Then move to strength training, working with dumbbells and step-ups and things like that. All of our members wear … monitors we provide throughout the classes to track their heart rates and get their heart rate into certain zones. … [These] are displayed on a monitor on the wall for tracking. Sometimes it makes people challenge themselves, too. If someone next to them is in a higher zone, they can push themselves a little harder if they want to be in that zone, too.
Who benefits from high-intensity interval training?
It is for people who want to lose weight and get in better shape and for people who are in great shape and want to maintain where they are physically. Once you start doing these classes, you are going to notice how much stronger you are after just a few months.
Why is HIIT more beneficial than other forms of exercise, such as running?
[If you maintain the same pace running] your heart rate is going to be the same the whole time and you are … just working your aerobic and cardiovascular levels. You are sort of stagnant. With high intensity, your heart rate is going from low to high and high to low, and that is going to help you with getting stronger as well. In the classes, you really get three different types of workouts in under an hour and will get a great workout no matter what your fitness level, because each segment is different than the other. You are not just going in the weight room and lifting the same thing over and over.
How do you recommend someone get started in HIIT?
Just go for it, but monitor yourself. If you can’t do something or you feel like you are about to pass out, stop and [take a break], then jump right back in whenever you are ready. That is what is cool about the classes. You kind of go by your own pace. If you want to work a lot harder on the rowing machine, for example, go for it, or go slower if you need to. The coach is there to guide you through it. If you have never worked out in this way before, you will be pretty tired. I will use myself as an example. I work out every day and am in pretty good shape and I still get really tired … [during] these workouts.
What should people know before they go?
Wear comfortable workout clothes and shoes. You can walk in wearing your workout clothes and be ready to go because we have towel service and provide water. But if you prefer, bring your own water bottle to refill. The maximum number per class is …  people and you do have to sign up ahead [of time] so our coaches know how many people will be in the class.