A HIIT with Runners

HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training also called High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise (HIIE) is basically an enhanced form of interval training. It was developed in the 1990s by physiologist Izumi Tabata. The basic premise is similar to interval training that every runner has some familiarity with. The touted benefits are similar. But, the intensity it ratcheted up – a LOT  - way over 100% up to 170% of vVO2max. For comparison, typical interval workouts will be run at 90-100% of vVO2max – from 10K pace up to mile pace. The vast majority of interval training is done at 5K pace –  about 95% vVO2max. [Rarely are intervals done faster and when done are usually saved for "race time".] And they have found that in these small intense doses it doesn’t have to be done often! (A quality over quantity finding!)

What Research Studies Have Found

In various studies (anywhere from 4-12 weeks long; and with obese individuals, trained, moderately trained and well trained athletes) the HIIT trained subjects obtained gains similar to what would be expected from subjects who did steady state (50–70% VO2max) training five times per week. Not only that but resting metabolic rates (RMR) are increased post-exercise (one study estimated 100 extra calories are burned post HIIT workouts). It also appears to improve oxygen consumption (VO2max) more effectively than traditional long aerobic workouts.

Interestingly or perhaps intuitively, a study by a researcher named Gibala “demonstrated 2.5 hours of sprint interval training produced similar biochemical muscle changes to 10.5 hours of endurance training and similar endurance performance benefits.” Now that is a good investment of time and energy!

Here is another interesting finding: For already well-trained athletes, improvements in performance become difficult to attain and increases in training volume can potentially yield no improvements. Research showed that improvements in endurance performance can be achieved with high-intensity interval training.

The Tabata Method uses 20 seconds of very intense (near max) exercise (at an intensity of about 170% of VO2max) followed by 10 seconds of rest. It is repeated continuously for 4 minutes (8 cycles). – four days a week. So the workout is 8x[20 seconds @ 170% VO2max, 10 seconds rest]. There are variations that have been studied since then that on as little as three days a week you can get the same benefits.

Some technical points:
Warm-up first with dynamic motion drills (not static stretching). This will vary by individual but 10-15 minutes is a good starting point.

Have a timer. Remember, you must push extremely hard during those hard bouts. But, you don’t push so hard you cannot complete the workout. And yes, your lungs will be burning, your muscles burning and feeling like rubber, your heart will be pounding out of your chest. If not, you most likely aren’t doing it right.

Maintain form at all times regardless of fatigue so you don’t get injured or simply train your muscles to do the wrong thing.

Just what are you doing during those 20 or 60 seconds of intense exercise? Studies have done this with running sprints, cycling and a plethora of plyometric and standard strength exercises with and without equipment (such as medicine balls, chin up bars, etc.). So, get creative. You can do this on treadmills, on tracks, on roads, on fields, in your hotel room, in stairwells, stadiums, and hallways. This is the perfect No Excuse workout.

Then cool-down for 5-10 minutes. In less than 30 minutes total you have a gang-buster workout! You did not have to skip your track workout today or lament you didn’t have time for your long run or to travel to the gym, pool, track, trail or meet up with the club.

It won’t replace your entire running training program. But it is the perfect supplement or replacement workout for runners.

The combinations are limitless. And as with any conditioning program it is important to vary the exercises and increase the difficulty over time so you continue to progress. Here are some ideas for workouts.

The Cross-Training Workout:

  • Warm-up
  • 20 seconds of push-ups (Advanced: do on a balance board or medicine ball or with weight vest)
  • 10 seconds rest (standing or walking around)
  • 20 seconds of squats (Advanced: test yourself to do more reps each set, use weight belt, medicine ball, dumbbells)
  • 10 seconds rest (standing or walking around)
  • 20 seconds or squat thrusts, or sprint stairwell, stadiums, infield
  • 10 seconds rest (standing or walking around)
  • 20 seconds of sit-ups/crunches or sprint stairwell, stadiums, infield
  • 10 seconds rest (standing or walking around)
  • 20 seconds of run in place – high knees (thigh parallel to ground)
  • 10 seconds rest (standing or walking around)
  • 20 seconds of squat jumps (from squat position jump up and pull knees to chest)
  • 10 seconds rest (standing or walking around)
  • 20 seconds of push-ups (Advanced: do on a balance board or medicine ball or with weight vest)
  • 10 seconds rest (standing or walking around)
  • 20 seconds of squat thrusts, or sprint stairwell, stadiums, infield
  • 10 seconds rest (standing or walking around)
  • Cool-down

The Hotel Workout (sans workout facility):

  • Warm-up
  • 20 seconds of push-ups
  • 10 seconds rest (standing or walking around)
  • 20 seconds sprint up stairwell
  • 10 seconds rest (standing or walking around)
  • 20 seconds of crunches/sit-ups
  • 10 seconds rest (standing or walking around)
  • 20 seconds sprint up stairwell
  • 10 seconds rest (standing or walking around)
  • 20 seconds of squat jumps
  • 10 seconds rest (standing or walking around)
  • 20 seconds sprint up stairwell
  • 10 seconds rest (standing or walking around)
  • 20 seconds of burpees (squat thrust with jump at end)
  • 10 seconds rest (standing or walking around)
  • 20 seconds sprint up stairwell
  • Cool-down

Here are the takeaways for every runner out there.
You CAN get conditioning workouts in regardless of how busy your day is.
You CAN improve conditioning regardless of what level athlete you are.
You CAN get faster and fitter without doing more and more miles.
You CAN breakthrough performance plateaus.
You CAN improve endurance with sprint training.
You CAN maintain if not improve conditioning during busy times of life getting out only three times a week. (You don’t have to lose all you have gained when “life happens”.)

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About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - trailrunningclub.com. I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for Running-Advice.com. I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
This entry was posted in Excuses not to run, High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT, Mental Toughness, Motivation, Range of Motion, Running, Stretching, Training Effectiveness. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A HIIT with Runners

  1. Pingback: You Had Me at ‘Plyo Box’ | Living Fit Mommy

  2. Pingback: Manic Monday « onlyhalfcrazy

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