What is (h)it?
High-intensity interval training (HIIT or HIT) has become an increasingly popular and extremely efficient type of training that may produce many–and in some cases more–of the benefits of traditional endurance training in just a fraction of the time. Some evidence suggests that a HIIT-style workout lasting as little as 10-15 minutes can produce the same physiological effects of an hour of endurance exercise.
Does (h)it work?
Sound too good to be true? Well it does however come with one small caveat. The workout you do has to be done at a high intensity. A very high intensity. As such, it will therefore feel rather uncomfortable, almost impossible. But it has to be hard to be effective.
Because of the high intensity required, you’ll only be able to sustain the effort for a very short duration, never more than a minute and usually even less. On the flip side, it means it will be over very quickly and you’ll get a long recovery.
How is (h)it done?
In all cases, begin with a short warm-up to get the body ready to run. In the spirit of saving time, run very easy for 5-10 minutes. Now for the ‘fun’ part: Run as hard as you can (“all-out”) for as little as 20 seconds (and not more than 30). You should get to a point where you physically can’t run any faster/harder and your heart rate will be through the roof. Once you reach that point, immediately slow down to the point of stopping altogether. While it’s important to recover from the all-out effort, the point of the workout is to do a few more of these in a short period of time, so keep the recovery period to no more than two minutes of standing or very easy running or walking.
You may only be able to complete a few intervals to start but try and gradually build up to 4-8 intervals. Yes, you will want to stop/quit given the high level of discomfort. But only if you see the workout through will you reap the many benefits it has to offer, both physically and mentally. Be sure to attempt a short cool-down after you finish the intervals: five minutes of easy running should be enough.
If done right, this workout will last no longer than 20 minutes and include just 2-4 minutes of high intensity intervals. Best of all, if done at the right (high) intensity, it could well equal and perhaps even exceed the value of doing a much longer easy or endurance run.
A few notes: This is a specific type of workout with a particular purpose. Longer endurance and slower easy runs also serve an important purpose and should not be discounted as inefficient or without value. HIIT also presents a much greater risk to the body particularly when running at an “all-out” intensity. It’s important to maintain good running form as not to cause injury and be sure to consult with a physician before attempting high intensity intervals.