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The S&B Reviews: High Intensity Interval Training: It’s a HIIT!


High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, has made its way onto the Grinnell College campus in a new class with Instructor Lisa Behrends. The S&B’s Zoe Fruchter ’21 attended a class this week to find out what a HIIT class entails, and if the HIITs really do just keep on coming.

“Let’s hit it!”

These words will now forever send a chill down this reporter’s spine as they signify the beginning of a new set of squats, lunges, lifts and push-ups, otherwise known as High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT.

HIIT, for the uninitiated, is a fitness training technique based around short, intense bursts of repeated exercises, ranging from straightforward jumping jacks to the more creatively named goblet squats and Russian kettlebell swings.

If any of those moves sound interesting to you, Lisa Behrends’ 4:30 p.m. HIIT class on Tuesdays at the Bear Athletic Center is a must-visit. The 45-minute class begins with a light cardio and abdominal warmup and ramps up to include multiple sequences of strengthening exercises, some moves with barbell weights, and some without. The class is, as the name suggests, intense.

Yet, the pain is worth it.

“It gets you sleeping better, eating better,” Behrends, HIIT instructor and Assistant Director of Alumni and Donor Relations for the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, said of HIIT. “It gets your metabolism up.”

Behrends describes the benefits of HIIT as invaluable to college students. She approached the College about offering a HIIT class two years ago and has led the class, open to faculty, students and staff of all fitness backgrounds, every semester since.

Indeed, among the students and staff present at Tuesday’s class, there were a wide variety of participants, from student-athletes to first-time visitors to the Bear Athletic Center — this reporter included.

“No shame, that’s my big message,” Behrends said at the beginning of the class, facing about 35 athletic-wear-clad Grinnellians. She reminded participants that it doesn’t matter how many repetitions you do, as long as you maintain your form and breath and try your best.

Behrends’ leadership of the class makes all of the squats, tricep extensions and Soviet-inspired lunges bearable, especially for beginners. She has been teaching HIIT classes for two decades, since her days in college. Although Behrends is a certified personal trainer with expertise in a wide degree of fitness topics ranging from weightlifting to CrossFit, HIIT is her true passion.

This passion was clear in the class. A Top-40 inspired radio station blasted across the Bear’s dance studio — many students were spotted singing along to “Sexy and I Know It” by famed 2010’s pop duo LMFAO. Behrends demonstrated moves, gently corrected participants’ form and shouted encouragement into her headset microphone. She told the squatting students before her that it is okay to be shaky, to take a break or even to dance while you work out.

Behrends’ enthusiasm and support pay off in attendance. She recalled how, when she offered a class on Saturdays last year, thirty students reliably showed up at… wait for it… 8:15 in the morning.

Behrends cited the inclusion of fitness in students’ lives as necessary for life at an academically rigorous school like Grinnell. This balance between fitness and work holds true in her professional life as well. Behrends refers to personal training and fitness instruction as her second job, supplementing her position as Assistant Director of Alumni and Donor Relations for the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at the College.

Yet, despite her many roles and commitments — she is currently planning a CrossFit class for children — Behrends makes sure to stand at the door and say goodbye and good job to every participant in her class, often with a fist bump and always with a smile.

“Come back next time,” Behrends told sweaty students on their way out. This reporter, for sure, will be there.    


From top to bottom: HIIT students caught in motion following Behrends instructions, getting down on the students’ level; Behrends prepares to lead the class in sit-ups.
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