HIIT training allows us to access the higher level energy need and then recovery only to rebound back to the higher state of energy need. This back and forth helps us burn more calories than sustained longer workouts at a lower training rate and do so in less time.
HIIT is a wonderful way to fit exercise into your life in short bursts of time. The body has 3 energy systems and we need to train them all. The Creatine Phosphate (CP) system is for explosive energy – often used in weight training, Anaerobic Glycolytic System (A-G) system gets used in stop and go movement, bursts of energy, and at the top ends of our endurance curves – think team sports, sprints, etc., and finally the Aerobic System is where we sit most of the time. Cardiovascular training is about making this system broader. The other two have some issues – the side effects shorten how much work we can do for how long. Creatine gets used up quick in the CP system, the byproduct of the A-G system is acid build up that results in cramping and the muscle’s inability to use the oxygen for production of ATP (the body’s energy), but in the aerobic system we only get CO2 and sweat plus more energy as we continue to breathe. In this system we feel like we can go on and on and on. This is the system we want to expand to get more efficient at movement. Then life becomes easier for us to move within every day.
HIIT training helps us push the upper boundaries of this system and broaden our endurance for it. There are a variety of options for interval training. You can do straight up 1 min on 1min type ratios, you can play with that by shortening one side or the other 2min on 30 sec rest, etc. In Tabata, a structured interval system, you do the same exercise for 20 sec on 10 sec off 8x, resulting in 4min of work at the high end of your training zone. You can use physical items like lamp posts or telephone poles – sprint the distance of 2 poles and recover/walk for 3, etc. Doing adding sprints, agility drills, running stairs, sports type specific movement patterns (often called Fartlek Training or speed training in Swedish) are all ways to include HIIT training into your regular routines.
Some workouts are completely based around HIIT others are steady state cardio, running/walking/biking/swimming/etc for an extended period of time at about the same pace. In these workouts the participant completes a portion of steady state and then does a round of interval training, coming back to steady state. This is a great way to challenge your endurance or add strength training sets to a cardiovascular workout.
Today try some intervals and see how you like it. Notice where your body feels strong, where it feels overwhelmed in the work and find your edge to push yourself within you limits while heeding the body’s wisdom. Enjoy!