So it is with trepidation that I accept the invitation of Les Mills Asia Pacific to join the tribe and undergo module training for their HIIT GRIT Series.
Moving away from the typical choreographed group exercise model GRIT offers a 30-minute, high-intensity interval workout in a small team forum.
HIIT - it’s been around forever and is performed in a variety of formats from self-styled Tabata and FARTLEK training to hill running and sprints. A good trainer will have dozens of HIIT ideas to throw at their clients and the most interested exercisers can create their own interval sessions with the help of Google.
The joy of GRIT, however, is that it’s packaged to be more readily available and accessible to a wider audience - all in a 30-minute session. The research into efficacy has been done and quarterly releases ensure that participants have just enough time to learn and adapt to the workout and intensity and then BOOM: out comes the new release to challenge their legs and lungs on a whole new level.
I arrive for module training in Canberra to join my tribe and most are already Les Mills instructors who are well versed in group exercise leadership. Head GRIT coaches Andrew and Jako tell us to forget everything we know about being a group exercise leader (easy for me!) and get into the ‘GRIT Zone’: supporting, coaching, connecting and motivating.
Andrew explains the move from group exercise to small team personal training style. In addition to moving with the times this format opens up a new audience. Not only is it perfect for the individuals who do not like group exercise, it is also great for the time-poor clients who want to add an edge or a new dimension to their training and those who need a bit of a push but can’t afford regular personal training sessions. Participants will have one thing in common: they want results fast.
The GRIT format allows the nominated team captain to create teams within a team. Using this method motivates, encourages and drives members to their maximum exertion and personal bests all the while connecting with other team members.
The two days of module training are largely practical but we spend the first hour absorbing the theory and the science behind GRIT. HIIT has been defined as ‘bouts of exercise at an intensity that is greater than the anaerobic threshold, 75-90% Max HR or VO2 Max by working at a 15-17 out of 20 perceived rate of exertion followed by recovery at 0-70% of HR Max’.
The question, though, is why HIIT? HIIT utilises intensity over volume. This means that even if you can’t physically do any more reps or continue for a longer period of exercise you can exercise harder, faster or with heavier weights for a shorter period with brief recovery intervals. In other words: you can get fitter faster.
As exercise intensity increases we can no longer use oxygen for fuel and the body turns to the anaerobic system. Everyone’s anaerobic threshold, however, is different and as you increase your fitness by working at high intensities your aerobic capacity also increases. This improves your ability to work for longer before crossing over to the anaerobic threshold which means you can work harder for longer.
Calorie consumption and EPOC (the after-burn eff ect) are also driven by exercise intensity and are two added benefits of HIIT for improving athletic performance and time efficiency.
The three programs in the Les Mills GRIT Series are GRIT Cardio, GRIT Strength and GRIT Plyo. Each uses different tools to train anaerobically: bar, bench and bodyweight, and cardio and bodyweight. There are no complicated choreography or fluffy stuff and no spirit fingers or jazz hands in sight! In fact, each track often involves only three to four rounds with three or four functional exercises per round: easy on the head, hard on the body. In the final minutes core conditioning serves as an active recovery and cool down. In and out in a mere 30 minutes!
The practical sessions are gruelling but euphoric. What I find fascinating is that when we start the workout we are all working at maximum effort. As a team you want to impress, to do well and to go hard - you do all of the above. But then you repeat it all over again. And again. Then we break it down into separate components and go AGAIN. Each time the intensity from each of us is as much as we can give. Being a part of this team spurs you on and pushes you beyond what you thought your body could handle. The success, however, comes from good coaching and connection. If the participants connect with each other, to the workout and to themselves they will not only get better results but they will comeback time and time again.
GRIT captains have to inspire - they jump higher, lift heavier and move quicker. They are team leaders who encourage and take the time to coach each participant individually. The motto for GRIT captains is overwhelmingly ‘inspire, but keep it real’. As a captain you do the workout with your team and push your own boundaries as you drive your team to push theirs. As you are puffing and sweating away every aspect is authentic!
I had never thought of becoming a group fitness coach in this sense of the term but it is immensely satisfying to lead your team to the finish line knowing that everyone has supported each other and pushed through their limits. So, do you need special qualities to be a GRIT participant or captain? Not really - just a drive for power, perfection and results.
Les Mills has recently been named number 28 in BRW’s list of Best Places to Work in Australia! For more information on Les Mills GRIT Series classes or module training visit here.