One of the most popular workout styles these days is HIIT training. It’s efficient, effective, and relatively straight forward. Requiring minimal or no equipment at all it’s the perfect workout style for the modern, busy, amateur athlete like me, and possibly you too! HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. It denotes a workout that alternates between short busts of extremely high-energy cardio exercise and structured periods of lower intensity exercise or rest. CrossFit’s now famous TABATA workout is a favored form of HIIT training.
How high is high-energy cardio you ask? Well that depends on the duration of the interval. Generally intervals in a HIIT workout range from 10 seconds to 5 minutes but the key is to put as much intensity into the interval as you can reasonably sustain for the length of the interval. These types of structured workouts can help all runners boost their metabolism and build complete-body fitness and athleticism, ultimately aiding in your mechanical efficiency, strength and injury prevention. Why do something boring and monotonous like use a Bowflex when you can jump up and down on a box 100 times?
How HIIT Training can help YOU - the busy, modern runner!
Increase your mitochondrial function:
Don’t worry, it’s not as “sciencey” as it sounds. All this means is that HIIT training has proven to increase an athlete’s cells ability to take the fuel in their body and quickly convert it to useable energy. This means that when you’re looking for that extra gear at the end of the race or need just another 1/2 mile in your already too long run, your body will be able to give you that little extra boost without too much lag time. In fact, a recent article published in American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology found that four 30-second max effort sprints with sufficient rest in between can improve your mitochondrial function as well as 30 minutes of moderate running.
Boost your VO2 Max:
VO2 max, every runner’s favorite term. The buzz phrase of all buzz phrases in the running blogosphere. One’s ability to maximally use their consumed oxygen often separates the elite endurance athletes from everyone else. Want to get up to their level? Try HIIT training! Depending on your current level of fitness, HIIT training as a normal part of a runner’s weekly routine has shown to increase their VO2 max by up to 46% in just 24 weeks. Six months of short sprints, jumps and shuffles is a small price to pay for the increased oxygen efficiency and subsequent performance perks.
Jack up your stroke volume:
This one sounds fun…it is! Stroke volume is the amount of blood your heart can pump per beat. Higher stroke volume means more blood pumped per beat which means more oxygen (carried by red blood cells) circulating to your oxygen-craving muscles. The type of short, but extremely high-intensity exercises crafted into HIIT training can increase your stroke volume by 10% in as little as 8 weeks. By also lowering your resting heart rate your body becomes a whole different, efficient beast when it comes to having your heart work at its best in your favor.
Make your body a fat burning machine:
As they say (or maybe just I say this), keep the oven hot enough and it will burn up everything. The high level of exertion inherent in HIIT training done right increases your body’s growth hormones. These hormones are the key to building muscle and burning fat even after your exercise is done. Getting strong and in peak performance mode requires this growth and development. The focus here should be on the muscles growth element. Continuing to build strength/muscle will help decrease muscular fatigue during your endurance work, add more muscular control and ultimately improve your power-output and add a little extra pep in your step!
Develop the whole athlete:
It’s great to be able to run for 4 hours on end without missing a beat but it’s even greater to be able to run for 4 hours, then climb ladder, lift a heavy box, duck under a low clothes line, and hurdle a trash can. That full range of athleticism will only add to your running and endurance performance. Variety of motion and exercise is key to developing the “whole athlete.” Integrating HIIT training that includes more than just sprints is a great way to get you there. Have some fun with it, enjoy the constant variance, and soak up the glory of building towards your peak performance level!