HIIT for the Holidays

Having a difficult time scheduling your workout during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season? Afraid of losing everything you gained in the past year? Well, you shouldn’t be. A couple weeks away from the gym and a strict exercise regimen never killed anyone. In fact, it might have even saved some lives. If you’re truly committed to changing your lifestyle for the better and becoming more active, then know that there are other options available for you to make progress or at least maintain what you have already gained. However, making room for a workout during the holiday season shouldn’t feel like rocket science.

That’s why I suggest HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, to the majority of my clients who are unable to make it into the gym for their regularly scheduled workouts. There’s no reason to be entirely inactive during the holiday season except for maybe an injury. But even then, if you’re truly committed to positive movement, you’ll find some way to move and workaround the injury. That said, know your limits and know that it’s OK to take it easy from time to time.

Maintenance is the Goal

For the holiday season, maintenance should be your goal. It’s very difficult to implement a structured program when your world is no longer structured. You can try your best, but more likely than not, you’re going to end not sticking to that plan. And that’s OK. Sometimes this a good place to incorporate some much needed rest so you can hit the ground running at the beginning of the year. ‘Cause you’re going to need it when you’re fighting for a squat rack during the inevitable influx of New Years’ gym members.

Stick to mindfulness and HIIT. Mindfulness is vital for eating during the holiday season because tracking calories and protein is just going to drive you crazy and this should be a time of rest, relaxation, and, of course, celebration.

The reason I suggest HIIT for the Holidays is because HIIT has so many positive benefits:

  • Burns a lot more calories than steady state cardio in a shorter amount of time.
  • Targets fat.
  • Can be used to lower blood pressure.
  • Increases metabolic rate for hours after exercise.
  • Can be done with simple equipment like bands and bodyweight.

The most important reason is that it challenges you significantly, but for a shorter amount of time. That comes in handy during the holiday season when it’s difficult to find long periods of time to yourself to get some work done.

Try the Tabata HIIT Style

One of my favorite forms of HIIT is Tabata. Tabata is a type of HIIT created by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata. Dr. Tabata found that test groups that performed HIIT for a short amount of time improved their cardiovascular fitness (aerobic and anaerobic) more than test subjects who performed moderate intensity exercise for hour long periods. Basically the reduced rest interval involved in Tabata training caused test subject’s hearts to pump blood faster and increased their overall metabolic rate. This was only from several weeks for 4 mins of HIIT exercise a day compared to the hour long sessions a day of moderate intensity exercise.

HIIT really pushes you to your ultimate limit. The shorter rest period involved in Tabata style training (2:1 or 20 seconds of high intensity work followed by 10 seconds of low-intensity work or rest, repeated eight times) keep the body working hard. The more you push yourself, the more your body has to change and grow in order to continue to do the activity. That’s why it’s important in a weight training program to continuously overload the muscles by increasing in terms of sets, reps, and weight over time.

Sample Workout

My favorite style of HIIT involves employing the Tabata format and choosing four different exercises. I like to hit every muscle group so I divide the four exercises into an upper body exercise, a core exercise, a lower body exercise, and a power or speed movement.

You can just rest in your low-intensity intervals or you can just do some simple cardio like jogging in place to further reduce the amount of rest your body experiences. Be careful with this, though, because if your low-intensity sets are done at the same level as your high-intensity intervals, it’s no longer a true high-intensity interval workout. You need to make sure your high-intensity work is high and your low-intensity work is low.


Upper: Pushup variations (regular, wide, close, or modified)

Lower: Squats

Core: Side Plank Hip Dips

Power/Speed: High Jumps

Repeat the set of exercises 2 times in 4 minutes and repeat the entire round 3 times with 30 – 60 seconds of rest between round.


Upper: Banded Bicep Curls/Overhead Press

Lower: Banded Hip Raises (w/ or w/o hip abduction, or single leg)

Core: V-Ups

Power/Speed: Plank Jacks

Repeat the set of exercises 2 times in 4 minutes and repeat the entire round 3 times with 30 – 60 seconds of rest between round.


Upper: Banded Front Raise/Lateral Raise

Lower: Banded Side Lying Leg Lifts

Core: Low Plank Step outs

Power/Speed: Mountain Climbers

Repeat the set of exercises 2 times in 4 minutes and repeat the entire round 3 times with 30 – 60 seconds of rest between round.

BONUS: If you’re feeling like you really need to get a hard workout in, consider challenging yourself by doing any of the following exercises at a low-intensity rate for 10 seconds instead of the 10 seconds of rest:

  • Jump Rope (w/ or w/o a rope)
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Jog in Place
  • Cross Jacks

Feel free to modify this workout depending on the equipment you do and do not have.

The good thing about HIIT is that as long as you do about 10-30 mins of work, you’ve pretty much gotten a hard and stimulating workout in. This also means that you can break up the workout into sets of 10 mins as well and just work your way up to 30. Hopefully that makes your holiday workout plans a lot simpler! Good luck this holiday season!

This blog is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.

Author: Coach Robyn J.

All great things start with a leap of faith.

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