I love HIIT training (High Intensity Interval Training). It is, by far, my favourite type of exercise, and has been a part of my overall fitness plan for a long time. Forgetting about the physiological benefits for a moment, the reasons why I find this type of exercise so awesome are . . . The intensity! These are extreme workouts and you know you’ve had a session afterwards. If your training is becoming stagnant, or you need something of a challenge, then HIIT training should be next on your list. And then there’s the duration. These training sessions are much shorter than the traditional long endurance sessions, typically lasting between 10 and 20 minutes. And last but not least . . . it’s all about the endorphins! These are the feel good chemicals in your brain. Any type of exercise raises your endorphin levels, which basically enhances your mood. All I know is that after a HIIT workout I simply feel great!
The HIIT Principle
As the name suggests, you are basically perform intervals of high intensity exercise. Following a thorough warm up, which is essential to avoid injury, you would alternate intervals of near maximum effort and submaximal effort and so forth for a given period of time or number of intervals. These will vary depending on the exercise you are using for your HIIT training and your overall fitness level. But your sessions should last no more than 20 minutes. This might sound easy . . . but it really isn’t. You will have to build up to this, for sure. To be more specific, you would have to perform the near sprint interval at around 90% to 95% of your maximum all out effort. And your steady submaximal intervals should be around 50% of your maximum. If you’re a newbie to the world of HIIT training then you might want to start with 6 sprint intervals with double the length of the steady submaximal interval. As an example, take a look at the following running HIIT routine.
Thorough warm up
60 second steady jog
60 second near sprint at 90% of maximum effort
60 second steady jog
Repeat the above for a total of 10 sprint intervals
End with cool down and stretch session
This is only 1 of hundreds of different variations of workouts. You could split your intervals into 20 second, 30 second, 45 second spurts, or even 2 minutes! And you can use the HIIT principle whilst running, cycling, swimming, hill walking, circuit training . . . You get the idea.
Benefits of HIIT Training
Studies have shown that interval training can have a beneficial effect on aerobic capacity (VO2 Max) similar to that of traditional long distance endurance training. What’s even more interesting is the relation between time spent training and your aerobic gains. A total of 2.5 hours of HIIT training has similar physiological changes to over 10 hours of endurance training. That is just awesome! It has also been found that you burn more fat from your HIIT workouts than traditional endurance training. Seems a bit weird, right? You would expect the more exercise you do the more fat you burn off. But this appears to be the opposite! It’s partly put down to your metabolism being super charged for at least the following 24 hours.
Putting HIIT Into Practice
What’s your favourite activity? Running or Hill walking? Or maybe it’s sitting in front of the TV whilst on your home bike or rowing machine? Practically all aerobic exercises can be turned into a HIIT workout. Whatever it is, re-read the list above and manage your session accordingly. If it’s your first time, make the sprint intervals 30 seconds long and your steady intervals 2 minutes long. Try for a total of 6 sprint intervals, making you session 15 minutes in total. Then build on it from there. Start by reducing the length of time of the steady intervals, followed by increasing the number of intervals. Check out the growing list of workout routines, and use them or modify them to fit in with your own fitness goals.