Why HIIT Might Be the Best Exercise to Fit into Your Busy Schedule

Q&A with high intensity interval trainer David Magida.

Photograph by Weikerken Altema

There’s a new, engaging fitness phenomenon sweeping the region, one designed with busy lives in mind. It’s called high-intensity interval training (HIIT)—short bursts of extreme effort followed by brief periods of rest, on repeat through a circuit of calorie-blasting, lean-muscle-building exercises.

Local Spartan race champion David Magida opened Elevate Interval Fitness (2428 14th St., NW; 202-509-9995), a gym devoted to HIIT training, last October. And while Elevate’s 55-minute HIIT workout is not for the faint of heart—participants move rapidly from compound weight-training exercises to sprints to rowing machines, and back again—we think it’s worth a try. You’ll get hooked on the way HIIT can tone muscles in less time than sporadic trips to the gym. Plus, you’re learning from a pro.

Q: How did you discover HIIT?

A: I come from a background of interval training. As a runner, intervals were always the big thing that took my performances to the next level. I’ve been training this way for years now, and it’s been an incredible way to stay lean yet muscular and fast.

Q: How does it work?

A: The science behind it is the idea of increasing mitochondrial density. The mitochondria are basically the power plants in your cells. They create ATP, which is what fuels your cells. Boosting mitochondrial density also helps you burn fat faster, because it’s getting sent to the mitochondria to be converted into energy.

Q: Is HIIT going to make me bulky?

A: When you’re trying to build mass, you’ll use high weights, low repetition, and huge amounts of rest time. HIIT training is the exact opposite—you’re literally lifting weights so hard that you’re getting cardio out of it, developing strength and cardiovascular abilities at the same time.

Q: How often should I do HIIT?

A: Three days a week. Take the other three days as active recovery, and take one day a week for complete rest. It will do incredible things to change your body in a very, very short period of time.

Q: What are some high-impact exercises I can do at home?

A: Burpees, thrusters—a squat with an overhead press that you’ll feel in your core, your shoulders, your triceps, your quads, your butt; supine leg raises—try lying on your back with your feet six inches off the ground, raise your legs straight up in the air and then bring them back to six inches above the ground; lunges; and push-ups.

HIIT Around Town

Elevate may be the only gym of its kind in the area, but here are some other places you can sweat it out with intense circuit training.


Multiple DC locations

Drop by one of seven DC locations for VIDA’s high-intensity workouts.

bFIT at BodySmith Gym & Studio

1630 14th St., NW; 202-772-0001

Find full-body interval-training with this spin on HIIT, created exclusively for the Logan Circle gym.

305 Fitness

1630 14th St., NW; 212-475-0425

Elements of HIIT are incorporated into this high-energy, Miami-based dance and cardio workout.

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.