The Time I ... Transformed my Body and Mind with HIIT

A couple of years ago I was in a really unhappy place both physically and mentally. I felt like I was weak internally and so I decided to build strength from the outside in. I decided to focus of HIIT style training to minimise time and maximise results. I learned how to effectively and efficiently complete a workout and maintain a healthy diet during an 18 month period of strict training. The proof is in the pudding (which you can eat in moderation!) Read on if you would like to find out more about how I did it and my results.

Why I started:

Working as an air hostess had it’s perks, but weight gain was not one of them (you can read about my time at Emirates here). When I returned to Australia after 18 months flying I had gained nearly 10kg. I had gone from my natural size 6/8 to a solid size 10. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a size 10 but for someone who has always been naturally thin, I knew I was overweight. Going through my old wardrobe, I wasn’t able to fit into any of my old tailored pants or any of my jeans or short. I could have made the excuse that I was just getting older, my body was slowing down and accepted it, OR I could do something about it. I felt determined to fit back into my old clothes.

It was also a time in my life when I was feeling particularly vulnerable; I was finding my feet again having returned back home to Perth and I was dating Richard’s (see my previous post) who I felt too weak to resist. I decided that if I couldn’t find the strength internally to protect myself, I would begin on the outside and work my way in.  With this double edged determination I began researching the best way to get in shape.

I stumbled across the concept of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) on Instagram and after seeing the transformation photo’s of other women I immediately started looking at various HIIT workouts.

Points that I shouldn’t have to state but I will anyway:

Everyone’s body is different. Everyone can be fit and healthy. Not everyone will look the same when they are fit and healthy. Like a haircut, everyone will look different even if they get the same haircut. Therefore, what fit and healthy looks like for me, may not be what fit and healthy looks like for you. Just because I have a six pack does not mean that you will have a six pack. Our bodies are all designed differently!

I am in no way encouraging people to make unhealthy choices to achieve results. Good nutrition, a regular exercise regime and persistence is the way to safely and sustainably achieve YOUR best version of you.

There are no short cuts or cheat steps when it comes to the health and fitness journey. Hard work and determination are the ingredients. Crash dieting or smashing out 6hr sessions at the gym for a week will (a) be horrible for your body and (b) not achieve long term results. Think of your body like a car, if you put the wrong fuel in it and never take it for a run it would crash.

I am not a fitness expert, I am merely sharing my experience of an exercise program and a diet that have worked for me and I am not saying they will necessarily work for you.

I am 30 years old. I started this program when I was 28. I had 28 years to get to know what is and is not natural for my body. Young girls and young women need to allow their bodies to grow and develop naturally (no fad diets or crazy exercise, enjoy all kinds of food, go out and play sports!) so that they too can know their bodies and what a healthy weight is for them. As I said, I have always been extremely petite.

Ok now that I have made that clear, let’s get back to my health and fitness journey!

What does a HIIT workout look like?

A HIIT workout is usually a series of exercises that are performed in a set amount of time or have a set amount of reps, followed by a short break. These exercises are repeated for period of 30 to 45 minutes with the intention being that your body continues to burn fat for hours after you have finished the workout. 

An example of a 30 minute Legs Day:

Set A - 10 x burpees, 15 x jump squats, 24 x walking lunges, 30 x jump lunges

Set B - 24 x weighted step ups, 15 x sumo squat, 24 x knee ups, 10 x tuck jumps

The 28 minutes is broken into 4 parts. Each part contains 4 exercises which you do repeatedly for 7 minutes before taking a 30 second break.

Set A (7mins) - 30 sec rest - Set B (7mins) - 30 sec rest - Set A (7mins) - 30 sec rest - Set B (7mins)

A False Start:

Determined to fit back into my favourite summer shorts, I got started on HIIT training straight away which happened to be just before Christmas 2015. It was sooooooooooo hard. I mean I couldn’t even do a single push up on my knees, skipping I had to do without a rope to start because I kept tripping on it, and burpees don’t even get me started! My body ached all over after the first day but I learned to slow down the exercises so that I could master the technique and prevent injury rather than go all out too quickly. This meant sometimes I wouldn’t complete all 4 exercises in the 7 minute round but that was ok because both my speed and strength each time. I completed maybe 3 weeks of the training before Christmas and New Years. Festive season however led to eating fairly unhealthy large meals and partying a lot (as you do during festive season right!!). I decided after i recovered from New Years that I would restart the program. This false start did actually help get my body into better form for when I started again. It also taught me that you can fall off the horse but just make sure you get back on it and the sooner you do, the easier it will be.

Starting again:

When I started training for the second time, I began to notice results after the first 2 weeks. Taking progress photo’s was vital for motivating me to keep going and I wish I had taken more from the beginning of my journey. It was only by reflecting back on where i started that I could realise how far I had come. After the first month, I was hooked, it became part of my regular routine. I started with just 3 days of HIIT per week plus 1 day of yoga, but as my fitness improved, I added in running and HIIT on a Sunday. I registered for the HBF Run For a Reason determined to be able to run for the whole 12km which I did.

I was working out almost every day and I felt so proud after completing 3 months. Physically the changes were obvious, but mentally I had also changed. I was more confident, I was able to stand up for myself, and I felt like I knew what I deserved and what I wanted and would not settle for anything less. In fact I stopped dating all together for a period of over 6 months. For someone who is prone to anxiety and depression, the way training made me feel was absolutely invaluable.

My 12 week progress photos

A change in diet:

My physical and mental transformation was not all about exercise, in fact I would say that 70% or more of the results I achieved came from a change in my diet. I had a good read of various nutrition guides but I chose to use them more to educate myself on making healthy food choices rather than to follow it verbatim. It does have some great recipes but I don’t like the idea of sticking to a meal plan especially one that doesn’t include some of my favourite foods! Prior to training I used to eat pretty much whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and however much I wanted. So changing my diet was a very big adjustment for me. The changes I made were:

I found the best way for me to maintain a healthy diet was to eat the same thing daily…now i know variety is the spice of life, but this is what worked for me for approximately 8 months! A regular day for me would begin with wheatbix and a banana for breakfast, rye bread with vegemite, avocado, tomato and feta cheese for lunch, a carrot or an apple for afternoon snack and a salad with marinated chicken for dinner. If I felt like something sweet for dessert I would have greek vanilla yoghurt with strawberries. Again, I’m not saying that this will work for everyone or that this is the best way, it’s simply what worked for me.

Entering the maintenance stage:

When I returned from a holiday in Europe late 2015, having not doing any workouts for a month, I found it extremely hard starting up again. My motivation was not as high as it used to be and I had enjoyed being able to eat an array of foods and treats again. Going on holiday had been a big motivator for me but now with that gone I didn’t really have the urge to work out everyday. My fitness had been the top priority in my life, an obsession really, and a way to distract myself from dating and work. I now realised it was important to find a balance that worked for me rather than to continually try to see progress.

At this point I had very low body fat percentage so the only progress I could make would be more muscle mass which I didn’t want to do. I entered what I call the maintenance stage where I was happy with my body and I felt good. I began to ease up on the exercising, doing maybe 4-5 days a week instead of 7, doing more Yoga and I also began to vary my diet. I was able to enjoy simple carbs again like pasta and french fries! I ate chocolate again which anyone who knows me will tell you I am addicted to :) It took a while to figure out a happy medium of how much exercising and how many treats I could eat and still maintain my fitness. I was actually surprised at just how easy it was to maintain with the more relaxed diet and exercise regime.

Where I’m at today

I no longer need to research workouts in order to know what training to do. I can put together my own 28 minute workout without any reference. I do a range of different types of exercises now too, pilates, running, yoga, weights, and most recently LA Fit using a megaformer! I’m enjoying exercising again and I’m enjoying a varied (but still mostly healthy) diet. The hardest part was definitely getting to a point that I felt comfortable at and now I am enjoying the rewards.

left taken January 2015, right taken April 2017

I have a lot of people say that they couldn’t achieve the same results, or that I was never ‘fat’. I agree, I was never ‘fat’ but my photo’s above certainly show that I am capable of gaining weight just like anyone else and that I am capable of losing it, just like anyone else. Maybe you won’t end up with six-pack abs but I do believe we are all capable of toning and reshaping our bodies to find the best possible version of ourselves.

I hope this post shows that the health and fitness journey is a slow jog, not a sprint. It takes dedication, consistency and a wholistic approach, heck I’ve been at it for over 2 years now but I don’t regret a moment of it.

Until Next Time