BYOW: HIIT Cardio at the Gym

by | Aug 2, 2017 | Last updated Mar 17, 2023

And we’re back with another Build Your Own Workout (BYOW)

Miss the last one? Check out our BYOW: Full Body Strength Circuit here.

Today we’re turning up the intensity with a HIIT Cardio at the Gym edition!

What it is:

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and is used to describe a type of training where you alternate short bursts of “all out” (high intensity) activity with longer bouts of “recovery.”

You should aim to make your bursts of “all out” activity something that you can keep up for no longer than 20-30 seconds.

While HIIT can be done with a wide variety of activities including running, swimming, plyometrics, and more, but today we’re going to zoom in on HIIT cardio at the gym (because we’re sure we’re not the only ones who get bored after 5 minutes on the elliptical!).

Why we love it:

The great thing about HIIT workouts is that they are super efficient. This means that a short workout can pack a heart-pumpin’, calorie-blastin’ punch.

HIIT has also been shown to have a number of health benefits including:

  • Increased strength and endurance
  • Improved fitness
  • Better energy levels
  • Appetite control
  • Weight loss + fat loss
  • Improved blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and other metabolic markers

How to get started:

We’ve made creating your own HIIT Cardio at the Gym routine as easy as 1-2-3(-4)!

1. Choose a cardio machine:

  • Treadmill (walking)
  • Treadmill (running)
  • Bike
  • Row machine
  • Stairmaster
  • Elliptical

2. Choose your “all out” and “recovery” bouts:


  • Incline + Flat
    Sprint + Slow pace

Bike or Row Machine

  • High resistance + Low resistance
    Sprint + Slow pace


  • Sprint + Slow pace
    Skipping steps + Normal steps


  • Incline + Flat
    High resistance + Low resistance
    Sprint + Slow pace

3. Select your rigor:

  • Let’s take it slow: 20 seconds “all out” / 2 minutes “recovery”
  • Keep it mild: 20 seconds “all out” /  1 minute “recovery”
  • Give me a challenge: 30 seconds “all out” / 1 minute “recovery”
  • Push my limits: 30 seconds “all out” / 30 seconds “recovery”

4. Set your timer:

  • Race against the clock: 10 minutes (great to finish a workout)
  • Crunch time: 20 minutes (great to “get in and get out”)
  • Time out: 30 minutes (great for your workout of the day)
  • Test of time: 45 minutes (great to build up your endurance)

Note: True HIIT, if done correctly, can’t be maintained with the same intensity and proper form for more than 20-30 minutes (and even that’s ambitious). But depending on your current fitness level and actual intensity, this can vary.

When building your own “HIIT cardio at the gym” workout, here are a few things to consider.

  1. Your current fitness level: If you’re new to working out, you might want to start with a simpler activity, a longer recovery period and a shorter workout.
  2. Your activity: Less intense/lower impact activities like walking can be maintained for a longer time and at higher intensities whereas more intense/higher impact activities like running or stair climbing can usually be maintained for shorter time intervals and at less aggressive intensities.
  3. Your goals: If you’re simply looking to get active or switch up your routine, build a workout that excites you — something fun. If you’re looking to reach certain physical or athletic goals, build a workout that pushes your limits and aligns with your goals.

Looking to keep your routine fresh? Get inspired with a 2-week free trial on a customized weight loss course.