If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard that our sessions are only 20 minutes long, and that we use a training method known as High Intensity Interval Training. You also probably understand that we encourage people to work pretty hard while they’re here.

So, what’s the logic behind training like this? Well, we run a service that caters to busy people who want the most efficient training possible, so they can get in, do what they need to do, and move on with their day. In order for your 20-minute session to be productive, you’re going to need to create a disruption.

To create this disruption, you have to push yourself just a little bit harder than your body can handle.


This disruption creates a bit of an oxygen debt.

This oxygen debt isn’t enough to be dangerous, but it is just offensive enough for your body to have to take notice. On a cellular level, your body will need to put a significant amount of effort into recovering from this stress (hence the term ‘disruption’).

Over the 12 – 48 hours following a hard training session, your body is busy expending calories trying to return to homeostasis, which is fancy-talk for “neutral”. Your metabolic rate basically has to stay elevated (i.e. higher than pre-exercise levels) throughout this recovery period. People in the fitness industry call this energy expenditure the Afterburn Effect, and the researchers call this Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). We call it “Dude, my armpits are still sweaty”.

Simply put, by pushing really hard in a training session, you send your body a signal saying:

“Yo, I need a little bit more from you than you can handle right now, man.”

In response, your body has to scramble to first recover from, then adapt to the stimulus.

In the short term, you get to capitalize on the Afterburn Effect, which makes HIIT great for fat loss.

In the long run, with consistent practice, you’ll get much more than reduced body fat and increased lean muscle; you’ll enjoy better lung capacity, improved heart health, accelerated fat oxidation and increased insulin sensitivity (i.e. you’ll deal with sugar better), amongst other benefits. Your body essentially becomes more efficient overall.

Just to be clear – if you’re interested in getting lean and looking fit, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the ‘traditional’ approach of lifting weights for an hour on some days, and doing ‘cardio’ for an hour on other days. It’s worked for many people. It just takes a lot of discipline and time: we’re talking 4 – 6 hours a week with this old-school approach.

If you want to be able to get results by committing to just a fraction of that weekly training time, you’re going to need to make up for it by putting in a lot of effort during that 20-minute session.

Does this mean you should finish a session feeling like you’re going to throw up or leave the gym feeling like you’re going to collapse? Not at all. Intensity should be scaled to what you’re ready for, and in future posts we’ll talk about how we address this. For now, to find that sweet spot, it’s probably a good idea to talk to a coach.

We get that all this talk about ‘intensity’ can be intimidating. Rest assured that we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into designing a service for busy people, and we’ve got no interest in ‘smashing’ you or running you into the ground at every session, risking injury and embarrassment. You won’t get the “no pain, no gain” speech here, nor will you get a trainer yelling in your face like a military bootcamp. In the upcoming posts, you’ll see how we’ve designed the training at Ritual to be much more logical, sustainable and science-based than that.

Be Brave

Ian Tan