These Living Room-Friendly Low Impact HIIT Classes Gave Me My Confidence Back Post-COVID

Ruby Feneley Tries Keep It Cleaners Low Impact HIIT Classes
Supplied: Ruby Feneley

For someone who covers fitness and wellness for a living, I don’t love cardio. I do Pilates and yoga anywhere from three to seven days a week — but cardio or overly strenuous workouts leave me feeling angsty. I also have neck problems and serious knee issues, which means I’m not as confident leaping around in a HIIT or Zumba class (or even jogging on my own).

However, I recently had a long recovery from COVID. I was out of my regular exercise routine, had lost five kilos (of mostly muscle) and was struggling with unpredictable bouts of fatigue and muscle tremors. On my first attempt at returning to Pilates, I found myself so tired by the end of the 20-minute walk to the studio I couldn’t complete the class. There’s nothing like being defeated but exercise you would usually consider “incidental” to shake your confidence. Unsurprisingly, I was also feeling anxious and depressed. I know that increasing your heart rate is one of the best ways to lift your mood, and ordinarily exercise is one of the main ways I manage my mood.

So, when the fitness and wellbeing gurus at Keep it Cleaner offered me a trial of a low-impact routine I could do from the safety of my own home (the walk to the kitchen or backyard felt achievable), I jumped at the chance.

Steph Claire Smith doing low impact HIIT
Steph Claire Smith in “Low Impact with Brooke” Image Credit: Keep it Cleaner

Co-founder Steph Claire Smith tells me that one of the reasons she created Low Impact With Brooke was to short circuit the negative self-talk that can come up when we’re returning to exercise.

“When we’ve taken time off exercise, no matter the reason, we can be so quick to criticize our strength and fitness levels and compare them to how we ‘used to be’,” she says. Smith experienced this herself when she tried to return to exercise post-partum and found her body and fitness levels had changed dramatically.

“We designed low impact with Brooke to not only help you ease back into exercise but to simply be there as an option when you don’t feel like jumping!” she says.

Keep it Cleaner HIIT trainer Brooke Jowett says for clients “returning to exercise post-injury and feeling like you’ve ‘lost it’ can be extremely frustrating and disheartening. Jumping straight back into things can lead to further injury or can result in you burning out and getting more frustrated with the situation.”

Frustration is definitely a feeling I was getting familiar with.

My “Low Impact with Brooke” Experience

Before you get too excited, low-impact HIIT workouts are not easy. I didn’t start until probably three weeks out of my isolation on my GP’s advice — and made it about 10 minutes through the first session. But the best thing about the Low Impact with Brooke workouts is they’re all only about 20 minutes long!

With daily attempts, I started to build up my stamina, and while I usually work out for one hour, finishing a whole class unlocked that sweet “achievement” serotonin in my brain (even if it was twenty minutes). Plus, I wasn’t thrown any curveballs like jump squats and burpees — meaning I could focus on my form.

There are ten low-impact exercises in total — some of them are focused on specific areas like glutes or core, and several of them are full body. For someone who isn’t used to HIIT workouts, or suffers from a lack of coordination like me, I recommend learning one routine before moving to the next. Soon you’ll be cruising through it with speed and not craning your neck to check what Brooke’s up to.

There are breaks built-in — take advantage of them. While this might be low-impact for your joints and muscles it’s still intense cardio. If you’re recovering from COVID in particular, give yourself as many breaks as possible, I definitely smashed the pause button a few times.

Why Low-Impact HIIT Works

Like Steph Claire Smith said in our chat — removing obstacles to exercise is one of the key factors for success. Having a workout I could do at home, where I didn’t need to worry about people noticing me take lots of breaks, or stress about what would happen if I got too tired to walk home (would an Uber agree to drive such a short distance?) removed two huge obstacles to my re-engagement with fitness. I also found discovered a fresh appreciation for cardio — something I rarely engage in when I’m feeling my best. Getting my heart rate up provided me with a much-needed serotonin injection.

Most importantly, it gave me the confidence that I could and would exercise again. It was surprising to me how quickly the sense of learnt helplessness can set in when you experience a fitness setback. Breaking exercise into small, manageable bites is far easier than jumping back into your regular workouts full steam.

“While low impact doesn’t mean easy, it’s completely up to the user how much they push themselves,” says Jowett. “The most important message we have shared with our community is to take your time, whether you’re returning from post-pregnancy, injury or illness. Ease back into your routine and don’t be too hard on yourself.”

You can try Low Impact With Brooke, along with other Keep it Cleaner yoga, pilates and HIIT classes on the Keep it Cleaner app via iOS and Android.

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