Working out next to basketball star Elena Delle Donne showed me that we have more than a major height difference.

The 6-foot-5-inch-tall Ursuline Academy grad takes a high-intensity, calorie-torching workout called Fit Accelerated at the Hockessin Athletic Club with her mom as a way to spice-up her fitness routines. Tossing kettlebells, pulling major poundage on the rowing machine, it didn’t matter, she always had a beaming smile on her face.

“It’s just nice to change it up,” she said after the class.

My barely 5-foot self, on the other hand, wheezed through the 45 minutes with shaky legs and achy arms when I tried the class for our Take It Off health challenge.

About 10 minutes in, I realized why people, including Elena, come back for more pain: the class is a community. Every lady and gentleman who took the class encouraged me to keep on going in between their reps with smiles and cheers.

Sure the calorie burn is a plus, but ultimately that support keeps people motivated, said Dina Saitis, the personal trainer who crafted Fit Accelerated.

“They have friendships. It goes beyond…it’s a community here at [Hockessin Athletic Center], not just in my class, but throughout the whole facility,” Saitis said. “It’s really a family.”

Throughout our 12-week challenge I’ve challenged myself by stepping out of my comfort zone and trying classes I would have never dreamed I would have participated in.

I was so excited to try Fit Accelerated I showed up a week early. Thank you, Dina, for being patient and accommodating my impatience.

Saitis specializes in small group and one-on-one training. She trains Delle Donne when she is in Delaware, too.For Fit, at most 16 people can take the class. Saitis sets up eight pairs throughout the room at different cardio and resistance training sessions.

For Fit, at most 16 people can take the class. Saitis sets up eight pairs throughout the room at different cardio and resistance training sessions.

Cardio burns more calories at first, and strength or resistance training with weights helps build muscle.

People take turns completing a Saitis-created workout from lifting kettlebells and deadlifting weights to fast-paced mountain climbers.

“When I plan a class I am thinking about hitting everything from your deltoids all the way down to your calves,” she said.

One person does cardio, while the other does resistance training. Then they switch.

Cardio workouts are done in intervals: working for 20 seconds and then resting for 10 seconds. The resistance training is consistent for a full minute and 50 seconds before resting.

Don’t feel pressured to go crazy, Saitis said. Do what works best for your health and fitness level. Rest when you want and challenge yourself if you can.

“It gives you the opportunity to explore those options,” she said.

High-intensity workouts have consistently been in the the top five fitness trends compiled by the American College of Sports Medicine. Though people need to be careful about injuries if they are not taught how to properly lift weights or do the specific movements, the journal BMC Public Health found that people were more likely to continue with high-intensity exercises over those that were less strenuous.

“It’s all the rage right now,” Saitis said.

Exercise in general burns calories and increases the body’s muscle mass, which increases calorie-burning metabolism, but high-intensity workouts go to the next level. The more muscle you have than fat will help you burn more calories after a workout, when your body is resting.

Exercising also helps burn off blood glucose as you sweat, which helps diabetics and others better control their blood sugar. National studies show that regular exercise, which means about 150 minutes a week of movements that work up a sweat whether it’s gardening or lifting weights or walking ,can help people avoid diabetes, and help those who have it feel better and stave off related problems.

People can try Fit Accelerated for free, then each class costs $20 for a HAC member and $25 for a non-member. For maximum benefits, take the class twice a week.

It may seem intimidating, but anyone can feel at ease in the class, Saitis said.

When Maureen Freeberry, 71, got questionable results from a bone density scan she used it as a wake-up call to get fit. She decided to take Saitis’ class to challenge her activity level and strengthen her bones. Protecting your bones better protects the muscles on the body.

Working out side-by-side with Delle Donne is fun, but she said she knows her limits, too. Freeberry is not afraid to modify different exercises or lower the weight amount she’s lifting.

“She’s amazing,” Freeberry said of Saitis.

Recognize that rest is important, Saitis added, to prevent injuries and help muscles recover.

“You can’t just go all out all the time,” she said.. “Just pull back. We work with everyone here.”

I definitely had to put down the kettlebells more than one time, but I decided to challenge myself by opting for a heavier sandbag to toss over my shoulder during step-ups onto a block.One thing I learned was to go at your own pace, no matter what is going on around you.

Delle Donne may have looked like she was gliding through each exercise, but she assured me that isn’t always the case. The first time was rough for her, too.

“It kicked my butt,” she said.