Derval O'Rourke: What is HIIT training and why should I try it?

HIIT your high intensity interval training stride before trying Derval O'Rourke's handy and healthy flapjack recipe
Derval O'Rourke: What is HIIT training and why should I try it?

This week I am going to talk about HIIT training, what is it, why you should try it, and what the best way to get started is. I’ve always loved HIIT training, and that’s why I incorporated it into my new September Reset Challenge online. I will talk a bit about that also. I am also sharing my favourite flapjacks recipe — they’re perfect to pop in the kids' lunch box, to bring to work as an elevenses snack &andalso as a pre/post workout pick-me-up.

During my running career, I spent about three hours most days training. My exercise load was big and I really enjoyed most of it. The point of all the training was to get ready to perform in races. My workday was training, the track was the office (the Oval office!).

When I stopped running for a living my daily routine changed. I spent far less time training and far more time working at a desk or with the kids. The shift was massive and definitely challenging in terms of staying fit. I stumbled across HIIT training shortly after I retired from athletics.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is basically working hard, resting, and working hard in a continuous way for a period of time with an elevated heart rate. My HIIT workout preference is for it to be 20 minutes long — I find any longer than 20 minutes and I struggle a little.

The exercises vary depending on which training session you do. They could be short bursts of hill sprints or circuit work or gym-based. I prefer doing a workout to going for a long run. That might be a reflection on the fact that the HIIT only lasts 20 minutes and is not too dissimilar to parts of my past training regime. Basically hard but short efforts — perfect for a girl who formerly ran for just 12 seconds as a career.

I tend to do HIIT workouts if I know I won’t make it to the gym or it’s lashing rain outside.

HIIT workouts are a great starting point if you’re looking to train at home.

HIIT training is claimed to help burn fat and build muscle. It’s become a really popular way for people of all abilities to train. Many HIIT sessions will have really familiar exercises. They tend to be full-body exercises like burpees. If you are considering giving HIIT training a go as an alternative to your current training regime I would definitely recommend it. Who can resist a training session that promises so much yet only takes 20 minutes and can be done in your living room?

The juggle in recent months has been crazy. Most recently I’ve been filming Ireland's Fittest Family while juggling the rest of my workload & life (with my little lady starting school). But I’ve made a conscious decision to carve out time in the weeks ahead for myself. I’m excited to have my new challenge, The Hiit Reset 28 day challenge, to get stuck into which starts this Monday, the 21st on my website and in my private facebook group.

If you fancy taking some time for yourself I’d love you to join me and get stuck into 28 days of new workouts that are simple to do at home. I believe this reset challenge will help lots of people, like me, to reset their health goals, during a bit of a crazy time.

To finish, HIIT training is a great idea to try and if you’d like to do it through Live workouts with a fantastic coach you should pop over to my site to join the 28-day challenge.

Fitness Tip: When doing HIIT training —  during your work periods, aim to push yourself as hard as you can, while maintaining proper form. If you start to lose form then slow down or modify to suit your ability. It’s a great one to do with a training buddy as you can both be doing the same exercise and session; just at a tempo that challenges you.

Wellness Tip: Aim to make a batch of healthy snacks each week. This will make you less likely to buy the more processed snacks when you’re on the go. The flapjacks recipe below is perfect, as the 12 bars should get you through the week, with some spare for sharing. Other good examples are energy balls or homemade scones

Mango & Date Flapjacks:

It’s easy to spend money on seemingly healthy flapjacks but it’s a much better option to make these yourself.

Prep time: 20 mins

Cook time: 30 mins, plus time to cool.

Makes: 12 bars



  • 240g jumbo porridge oats
  • 100g desiccated coconut
  • 100g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 6 tbsp water
  • 6 tbsp honey
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 egg
  • 4 medjool dates, chopped
  • 60g dried mango, chopped
  • salt



Line a metal baking tin with parchment paper so that it overlaps the sides. Preheat the oven 150 degrees.

Spread the oats, coconut, and pecans on a baking tin and bake for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the chia seeds and water to make a gel — and set aside.

Melt the honey, coconut oil, and vanilla extract in a large pan over a low heat. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly. Stir the chia gel into the honey mixture, one tablespoon at a time, ensuring each one dissolves fully before adding the next.

Add the egg and stir until smooth. Stir in the dates, mango, and a pinch of salt and mix well.

Tip the toasted porridge mix into the pan and stir until combined.

Increase the oven to 180 degrees. Scrape the mix into the prepared baking tin and spread out evenly, pressing down with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown and firm. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 30 minutes.

To remove from the tin, take hold of the parchment paper and simply lift the granola slab out.

Cut the slab into bars and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

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