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Wednesday, April 4. 2018
HIIT (High-intensity interval training) comes in many forms. As usual, everybody has his opinion about it. The general format is 30-60-second full-out sprints followed by active recovery (slow) intervals at a 1:1 or 1:2 time ratio. For me, the !:2 works best. For example, when I do HIIT on the treadmill I do 60-second sprints followed by 2-minute slow walks but I probably should do 30-sec sprints with 60-sec walks. Trouble is that it takes several seconds to get anything up to max speed.
- Speed? Obviously the pace of a "sprint" depends on fitness level. All that matters is that you give it everything you've got. Pace will improve over weeks.
- Warm-up? A 5-10-minute warm up before an HIIT session is recommended. My habit is a 10-minute low-resistance elliptical before I do any exercise at all. Gets everything warmed-up without fatigue and reduces risk of cramps or sprains.
- How many HIIT reps? Generally 5-10 is the limit. Stop when the quality of the sprints deteriorate noticeably. I aim for 10, but it depends on the day.
- Jump right in to HIIT? No, not if over age 40. Crawl, walk, then run.
- Does a tough hour of calisthenics count as HIIT? Sort-of, but not entirely. Thing is, people usually do not do calisthenics at max pace. They pace themselves (as do I) to be able to complete the routine. 60 seconds of max intensity/speed of jumping jacks is very tough. 60 seconds of warm-up jumping jacks is not so tough.
- How often can you do HIIT? As often as you want, but you won't have time for your other exercises if you do them daily.
- Does HIIT build strength? Really only cardiac strength. Keeps the muscles working and functional, though.
- Are things like Soul Cycle HIIT? Yes, they are.
- Does HIIT build endurance? Yes, generally-speaking. While some different energy systems and muscle fibers are activated by different forms of activity, a good sprinting regimen builds endurance. That's why endurance/distance athletes use HIIT in their training programs. Marathoners today run sprints to train, as do distance swimmers and bikers.
- What forms? Almost anything. Probably ideal to vary it week to week. Swim, run, speed jump rope, combat bike, rower, ski erg - whatever you can speed up and slow down with. I see good jumpers do 15 minutes of HIIT - with all the jump rope variations and the speeds up and down. It's like a dance. I can not do 15 minutes of jump rope at any speed.
- Time? Say you do a ten-minute warm-up and then 20 minutes of HIIT. What to do afterwards to fill out your daily hour of exercise? Well, I do whatever I want to fit in. Some calisthenics like pushups, pullups, curls, goblet squats, lunges, etc. Stay busy. There is no end to things to do. An hour goes by fast.
- What about weight-loss and fat-burning? No exercise does much for that. That's nutritional. If you are fat, you eat too much, and it will slow you down. Too skinny? Grab a Big Mac with fries.
- What about "Long, slow"? "Long, slow" exercises like an hour of fast walk, jogging, swims, biking, etc are fine for maintaining endurance but do not count as cardio training because they do not raise the heart rate high enough. As I have said, I often do an hour of "long,slow" weekly, mixing it up between elliptical, stair machine, and treadmill or rower unless there is a multi-hour hill hike instead. My genius trainer approves of these things as a "recovery day," not as exertion. For fitness beginners, though, they can feel exertional.
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I think HIIT is a path to fitness; I do not think it is the only or even optimal path for everyone. The trick is to find an activity or set of activities that kicks you into that heavy training zone, with large muscle group sin action and pulse upwards of 150 for a reasonably extended time. Repeated sprints are one way of getting and staying there, but so is sustained activity in the appropriately intense range. That said, jogging continuous ten-minute miles will only train you to jog ten minute miles. As you progress, you need to increase duration and intensity to keep yourself in that golden zone.
My caveat is that I train specifically for a 5k distance, trying to reduce my time. I aim for a total aerobic time between 35 and 42 minutes. Generally I try to keep to a five day cycle:
All workouts start and end with 5 minutes of graduated brisk walking:
Day 1 - 5 miles at 7:30 pace
Day 2 - 7 x 4-minute intervals pyramid 7:30 - 6:30 pace in 15s/mi increments
Day 3 - 3 x 7:00 miles, 2:00 walking rest between
Day 4 - 2 mi under 7:00 pace, 8 x 30s sprints on 90s walking rest
Day 5 - rest day
General rule - run to almost point of failure, rest until almost recovered, repeat. If you're comfortable doing it, you're not in the training zone.
Hey, it's not a joke. There were some articles at least a decade ago about SHIT or Ultra High Intensity or Ultra Short Interval training.
The theory is that very short intervals (10-15 seconds) followed by rest intervals of 30 - 45 seconds) accesses fat as an energy source and reduces the amount of glycogen used. The result is lower levels of lactate and higher levels of fat burning. High intensity, short duration exercise burns fat because of a myoglobin in the muscle cell binds oxygen and releases it during the intense, brief effort. Myoglobin can carry enough oxygen for about 15 seconds of exercise and then reloads. Fat needs oxygen to burn so as long as oxygen is available, you will use more fat than other sources for energy. But if the oxygen level drops, your body shifts to sources which do not require oxygen like glycogen. If the duration goes beyond 15 seconds, Myoglobin runs out of oxygen and you begin burning more glycogen.
I've tried this on several occasions and it's truly a weird experience. You feel very winded, but your muscles don't feel like jelly. So you can do dozens of high quality, high intensity repeats.....which you can't do with tabata style training with the shorter RIs.
"Long, slow" exercises like an hour of fast walk, jogging, swims, biking, etc are fine for maintaining endurance but do not count as cardio training because they do not raise the heart rate high enough.
I beg to differ. If you're ever in western NC, look me up" I'll slap a 60# rucksack on your back and we'll do a "few" hours thru the hills.
Am I a HIIT advocate? Yep, been doing HIIT for decades and it's the crux of my metabolic training, but in order to learn to embrace the suck, you gotta put in some training that seems like it will never end.
"Long, slow" exercises like an hour of fast walk, jogging, swims, biking, etc are fine for maintaining endurance but do not count as cardio training because they do not raise the heart rate high enough."
They do have other benefits though. LISS exercise can really boost your aerobic system and get you to a point where you can effectively do Tempo and HIIT work.
I let my self go very badly (53 year old male and former crossfitter/Iron Man), to the point I could barely run three miles. I followed the Maffetone method for three months, and then was able to run 5 hilly miles on a 10 minute pace without struggle. I have since added both HIIT and Tempo to my training, but I do LISS at least once a week.
I found an old Schwinn Airdyne at a thrift store for $12. It’s great for HIIT. For more resistance, pedal faster. The fan bike always wins.
Good stuff, BD.
Tabata Intervals are a very effective HIIT regimen for running, riding or even a crossfit/bodyweight circuit. They involve 10 seconds all out followed by 20 rest, times ten; or 20 seconds all out followed by 10 rest if you are doing a circuit training activity. Do 10 reps, then repeat 3-5 times.
Once a reasonable base is built, Tabatas are the fastest way (IME) to get into pretty good endurance condition, for efforts up to an hour. I'd recommend that the user build up a moderate to good base first with at least a month or two of pre-training. The shock of Tabatas done right is pretty amazing and would be vomit inducing to the untrained.