Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned runner, many of us begin a run by simply placing one foot in front of the other. More times than not, we tend to keep a consistent pace throughout our workout, maybe stopping for the occasional break. A common misconception is that increased speed and distance are the only indicators of progress in terms of the actual activity; however, numerous studies have shown that incorporating HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), along with fartleks, sprints, hill training and easy runs, will undoubtedly improve your running capabilities.
Did you know that the human race has been participating in HIIT sessions for nearly 2 million years? (Driver, J. 2013. HIIT- High Intensity Interval Training Explained. Createspace.). You heard that right! Our ancestors transitioned from scavengers to hunters at a pivotal point on the evolutionary timeline, and in doing so, they had to use what they were biologically given before the revolutionary creation of weapons. What biologics I’m referring to are the human abilities to sweat as a cooling mechanism and our impressive knack for long distance running as a result of that.
These long distance hunting endeavors called “persistent hunting” were no easy feat, nor were they continually managed without rest. In fact, they were (and crazily still are in some tribes) carried out in groups. Each group was led by a forerunner who ran short bursts of sprints until he needed to slow down, break, and/or replenish with water. When he tired, he would switch out with a fellow hunter, and the cycle would continue until the original forerunner was ready to take position again and the prey was ran down. Unknowing to them, this was an example of HIIT. Unknowing to us, we are designed for HIIT activities.
In today’s society, HIIT has rapidly regained popularity due to weight loss testimonies, numerous proven health studies, and comparison in results to other fitness approaches. The benefits add up well into the double digit range, but it’s difficult to find any negative reports or studies on HIIT (Banks, D. June 12, 2017. Life and Fitness Podcast: HIIT.)
So why is HIIT so imperative to our health? High Intensity Interval Training is proven to burn more fat (nearly double the amount) than Continuous Training, and in relation, HIIT produces more mitochondria in the muscular cells, ultimately assisting our bodies in fat burning efficiency. In addition, increased mitochondria allows for improved oxidation, production of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), and more energized workout sessions.
Unless you are injured or your doctor advises against HIIT, anyone can participate in this optimized exercise. Not only can you apply HIIT to running, but this form of interval training may be used in any physical activity. The duration and intensity of each session may change, depending on your goals and how you feel on that given day. Of course, the more intense a session is, the higher your heart rate and V02 Max, ending in better results.
Short on time? Then HIIT is definitely the ideal exercise for you. According to a study conducted by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “the CT [Continuous Training] group exercised for an average of 45 minutes per session [while] the HIIT group exercised only for an average time of 22.5 minutes per session”. CT athletes work for double the time and burn half the amount of fat.
Last but not least, the enjoyability factor is raised when active in HIIT rather than CT. Instead of thumping along at the same rate and getting bored quickly, HIIT forces you to remain mentally engaged. It’s fun switching it up every few minutes!