High Intensity Interval Training
(or Please Move Away From The Treadmill, Sir Or Ma’am)

Before you settle in for a steady 30 minute session on the treadmill, it’s worth reading the following: you could be getting greater cardiovascular benefit in less time:)

Over the past few years High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has increasingly gained popularity, particularly as a very time efficient way of improving cardiovascular fitness. Most recently, it has been the subject of an episode of ABC Catalyst titled “Fit in 6 minutes a week”, which Australian viewers can find on ABC iview.

In summary, HIIT exercises alternate between short periods of working at maximum effort and short periods of lower intensity. The examples given in the Catalyst episode involve 30 second sprints uphill, followed by 4 and a half minutes of rest, performed 4 times in an exercise session. In total, 2 minutes of flat-out sprinting over 20 elapsed minutes. Doing this 3 times a week gives you the 6 minutes of the episode’s title. This doesn’t however count the recovery time between the sprints – “Fit in 60 minutes a week” wouldn’t have been as catchy a title:) There’s a number of other different ways of chopping up the intense effort and the recovery. The Tabata regimen is one that I’ll highlight, based on 8 repeated cycles of 20 seconds of maximum effort followed immediately by 10 seconds of recovery – a total of 4 minutes.

HIIT isn’t just a fad, a number of studies support its effectiveness.Dr Martin Gibala and other researchers have found that HIIT leads to time efficient cardiovascular and muscular improvements. Interestingly these improvements also include endurance as well as shorter burst of high intensity.

HIIT is also the gift that keeps on giving! Following a HIIT workout, the body increases its oxygen intake as part of its recovery, a process known as excess post-oxygen consumption (EPOC). The benefits of your workout continue on for a period of time after training, whereas the benefits of a lower intensity workout stop when the workout ends.

Exercises where you can quickly control the changeover between maximum effort and rest such as running, lifting weights, rowing, skipping and riding (any many others) are well suited to HIIT. It’s a little trickier to do with a treadmill, so I’d be looking elsewhere to get the greatest benefits from your workout in the shortest time. And if it seems like I’m prejudiced against treadmills, yes I probably am:)

If you’re looking for some help in making the most of your workout time using HIIT, it’s a regular part of my personal and group training. Please get in touch using the details below!