WARNING: HIIT is Highly Addictive

A US Marine Doing Pull-ups.

My wise nine year old son asked the other day, “What’s the difference between a habit and an addiction?”  Taken completely off guard, I stumbled for a minute then started to think out loud.

Well, a habit is generally something you do that is good for you, like brushing your teeth after meals or doing your daily body maintenance exercises (got to drive it home while they’re young).  An addiction is generally something a person does repeatedly – usually in excess, which in the end causes them harm.

We came up with a few more examples for each and then left the thought behind. But of course our conversation provoked for me a little blog post.  I’ve said it before, but sometimes we need to hear the same philosophy from various perspectives.  What if our healthy habit of exercise turns into one of addiction? Meanwhile, the opposite is a concern for many…difficulty developing the habit in the first place, more on that another time.

Healthy Habit of Exercise = Increased Level of Fitness, Flexibility, Strength, Endurance, better sleep pattern and food choices, Active Living, etc.

Addiction to Healthy Exercise= Increased Level of Fitness + Chronic Injury/ Pain + Symptoms of Overtraining etc. Click Marks Daily Apple to read more about symptoms of overtraining.

But what if it’s not really an addiction to exercise, but rather enthusiasm?  How do we differentiate?  Well, all of this is obviously subjective – enthusiasm can very easily morph undetected…usually those around us see our symptoms long before we see them for ourselves.

When I first started transitioning from doing my hour and a half long workouts at the gym to doing HIIT at home exclusively, I had a difficult time accepting that anything under 40 minutes would or could be enough.  After a month or so I shortened my training sessions even further to 20 minutes, and because I was getting stronger with each workout and working at such maximal effort, I was ok with the change to shorter workout times.  The short-high-intensity workouts satisfied my ‘workout high’.

But then, there was a time when I had brought the workouts down to 12 minutes and I felt so energized from them that I just didn’t want the workout to be over. So I would do another 4 Minute Tabata to top it up. Or I would do HIIT workouts five days in a row – eager for the next day so I could get my 12 minute workout in.

I only had to do this a few times to realize that I was missing the point of what HIIT could offer.

When I was playing soccer regularly, there was a few times that after having played an hour of fast paced soccer I would then come home to do a short HIIT workout. For me that was the sign that I had crossed the line. Exercising in excess would lead to overuse and injury…I felt them (overuse and injury, that is) knocking at my door. What I ended up doing instead of a HIIT workout was to come home and stretch (Yoga) – a much healthier pattern. Lucky for me I generally only make the same mistake a few times before I change my pattern…unfortunately, there are countless opportunities for making new mistakes waiting for me at every turn.  (Actually, I honestly think making mistakes is terrific, it is our greatest teacher).

Today was another opportunity to listen to my truth and not my ego. Zuzka Light is back on YouTube – Zuzka has been taken under the wing of Darren Copik from Watch It Now Entertainment. She is the original face of BodyRockTv. In September of 2011, Zuzka stepped away from BodyRock to do her own thing (she and Freddy divorced – BodyRock is still going strong under Freddy’s direction and other hosts).

So, I grabbed Zuzka’s first ZWOD (Zuzana’s Workout Of the Day) Bodyweight Only Time Challenge workout, though I had to modify one exercise to suit me. I could have fallen into my old pattern and just used brute force to push through, but just by looking at the line up of exercises I knew that doing 3 Rounds would be excessive for me. So I did 2 Rounds and finished in 14 minutes. Just right.

Here’s what MY version of the workout looks like:

I warm up with 10x flight of stairs (up + down = 1x) by two’s going up + single steps going down (13 steps) + light stretches.

Complete 2 Rounds of the following 9 exercises in sequence as a Time Challenge.

1. Dive Bombers – 10 Reps

2. Burpees – 5 Reps

3. Squat + Side Leg Lift (Alternating sides) – 20 Reps

4. Lunge Back (Alternating sides) – 20 Reps

5. Burpees – 5 Reps

6. Side Plank Lift – 10 Reps Left Side + 10 Reps Right Side

7. Burpees – 5 Reps

8. Pistol Squat – 5 Reps Left Side + 5 Reps Right Side + 5 Reps Left Side + 5 Reps Right Side

9. Burpees – 5 Reps

Cool down with 4 x 100 skips with rope

+ 5 Forward Grip Pull Ups.

Plus 40 Minutes of Ashtanga Yoga Standing Series (including the first 12 seated postures -no vinyasa- + 3 Backbends + closing sequence – no inversions).

Tomorrow I will swim for 30 minutes and do 15 minutes of stretching in the Jacuzzi. I won’t do another HIIT or Yoga till Monday. But, regardless will start my day with stretching in bed (view the Bed Stretches #1 video here), some modified sun salutations – focusing on stretching out hip flexors (iliopsoas), followed by a 4 Minute Morning Week 3 – DAY 7.

Watch the sneak preview of what’s to come from Zuzka Lights new video series:


We all have to start somewhere. And we all have to find the right balance. Whatever you choose, be consistent and be kind to yourself. And most important of all STRETCH your body!

And to see the original workout breakdown and video click here. At :29 seconds there is a pause in the video which shows the breakdown in writing – for anyone who wants to write it out!

What exercise did you do today?


  1. You said about 4 million things in this post that make me stand and cheer, but this echoes my whole heart: “I felt so energized from them that I just didn’t want the workout to be over. So I would do another 4 Minute Tabata to top it up. Or I would do HIIT workouts five days in a row – eager for the next day so I could get my 12 minute workout in.”…
    When I discovered that I had *all* of the symptoms of overtraining, I tried two and three rest days at a time, and have reluctantly been doing other non-HIIT workouts on alternating days. If you (or any reader! please reply!) are familiar with any of these programs/trainers, I have many alternatives to HIIT to choose from, but I am kind of despondent about having to return to them, and I’d love input on what might be a good, mixed (balanced!) weekly pattern to try.
    I have P90X, P90X+, P90X2, TurboFire, Core Fusion (7 DVDs), Power Yoga (Rodney Yee), Yoga Fitness (Elise Gulan), and T-Tapp (almost all workouts).
    Machine, I know your go-to exercise is swimming; In the past I could go for long runs (5-8km) every day, and for several years my only workout was to jump rope for 40-60 min every single day. My problem is that *now*, the idea of having to workout that *long* doing the same thing throws me into fits of despair! I positively LOVE working out for “12 minutes” (I know it takes me about an hour because of warm-up, foam rolling, stretching). I’m not willing to join a gym ($$)…if you’re familiar with these alternative programs/trainers, what do you think is a good “off-day” one to choose? Or can you think of a “steady-state cardio” that is less body-pounding than jumping rope? I DO want to “do right” by my body, and obey it’s recent clear demand for rest and recovery and NOT daily BR-style workouts, but I am a bit paralyzed by over-information (and discouragement).
    I’d love any encouraging word you’re willing to throw my way :o). Thanks!!!~~~

    1. Hi Skippie,

      Your question deserves a more detailed response and I think I may have to write a little post to cover it, but so as not to leave you hanging, this -just quickly – is what comes to mind.

      Periodization. This is a training approach that most sports employ. Usually the year is broken down into periods of training. Focusing on 6 weeks for example of building strength, then the next 6 weeks focusing on another fitness component, then drills for sport specific performance and then just playing the game. You may be familiar with it but never considered it for yourself. What I suggest is perhaps finding a way to design a variation of periodization that suits your needs.

      This is just an example pulled out of my head – certainly not to follow just thinking out loud (I’ll put more time into a post about this down the road).
      Weeks 1-2 &/or 3: You may train HIIT style for two to three weeks as you’ve been doing with your usual two (?) active rest days per week (?)

      Weeks 3 &/or 4: Then on weeks three or four do ZERO HIIT or any other type of intense body loading training: only- and not to exceed 45 min.- an hour, dog walks/ hikes, cycling (?), trail runs (?), swimming (?), Yoga 3-4 days of that week, alternating days.

      Then when you come back to HIIT, your joints etc. will have had different training and forces on them so that you will possibly reap better results from what HIIT can offer.

      Your mental focus might be renewed knowing that you’re coming back to HIIT full force (which is your training of choice) and your body will have it’s necessary recovery time. It could be a win/win strategy.

      Again this is a really quick breakdown, and I’m not suggesting you or anyone follow it to a T, it’s just an idea to work with.

      Let me know what you think.

      1. Thanks so much for replying! I had been reading everything on periodization and had been feeling “over-informed” because so much of it is specific to bodybuilding and specific sports….I had *not* come across anything that suggested I could do blocks of mainly HIIT workouts (bliss!) and *then* blocks of other things. That idea does sounds loads more appealing than trying to think through integrating various workout programs!!
        The other programs I have are either a lot *like* HIIT (TurboFire), or quite muscle-intensive (P90X’s, Core Fusion); and so they might not provide that much “rest” for the muscle focus of whichever workout I chose….
        To completely switch over for little bits of time sounds a lot more balanced (and a lot less brain-frying to think through!). So once again, THANK YOU for your input 😀 I will let you know how it goes, and I’ll look forward to your longer post about this stuff ;o).

  2. Great post! I combine both the HIIT workouts of Zuzuka and BR, with strength training and longer session cardio at the gym, and yoga. It’s a good balance, but I do know what you mean about addictive!It truly is. I too am a Z fan, and her workouts on Bodyrock completely changed my life, for the good. I have always been a gym rat, but had no idea how out of shape I was until I started BRocking. By out of shape I mean lack of core strength, balance, coordination, cardio stamina for HIIT..it was a real eye opener to say the least..What I like about Z is that she does share modifications for those less trained/fit, and she is so damn positive. Love your blog.:)

  3. Zuzana is amazing. What an incredible attitude, the kind you need if you’re going to succeed in the gym. “You have to kill me.” What a warrior!
    Peace & grace,

  4. I watch Zuzana this Video, tear in eyes, she is just something I am saying my God, it is like sunshine, every single cell in my body is moving to excite to do workout. she is wonderful person, naturally cheerful.

  5. this blog post came at a good time for me! I am on day 6 of working out this week, bodyrocker mostly older videos. I was wanting to do another workout because yes it feels good, psychologically and physically. BUT we have to rest and recover! thanks for reminding me. I did do Zuzkas new WOD it took me 23. minutes. and I took my time. Love my HIIT training never will i return to a gym except to do yoga!

  6. First, thank you for your site. I’ve been trying to incorporate the morning workouts. Currently working on week 4 day 7… Need to work on my consistency, but I notice a difference between the days I do/don’t do the workouts. Thank you for posting this workout from Z. I have definitely missed her but am excited to see what she has in store.

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