Friday, June 21, 2013

ask the trainers: will HIIT workouts help improve running times?

in this second edition of "ask the trainers", we're looking to find answers to whether or not high intensity interval training (commonly referred to as HIIT) will help improve running times.

this question comes from dee: 

"will HIIT workouts help me improve my running times?"

i'll give a few bullet points to summarize the answer (because it helps me learn and retain knowledge), but the full answer can be found at the applied fitness solutions blog. check it out for the full answer to this great question!

  • recent research suggests that interval training does improve aerobic fitness to a greater extent than traditional steady state cardio (it also results in greater calorie burning and body fat reduction, which is a good reason why it is so popular in the fitness world!
  • to understand how HIIT workouts impact running, you need to first understand what HIIT is. HIIT is defined by a period of higher intensity "work" followed by a lower intensity "recovery" period. on the flip side, traditional steady state cardio is doing something at a continuos level of exertion throughout the workout (like walking, jogging).
    • the difference between these two workouts (from a physiological standpoint) is muscle activation. HIIT utilizes larger muscles, and more of those larger muscles than steady state cardio does.
    • HIIT releases fat burning hormones, versus steady state cardio which releases fat preserving, muscle burning hormones. this favors HIIT as a form of cardio for fat loss.
  • to be faster in a race, you need to practice faster in training. so it would seem HIIT would help you achieve faster running results. but that is only partially true:
    • novice and intermediate level runners need to build a base before integrating HIIT into their training to build speed. implementing HIIT too soon results in lactate threshold reached and exceeded too soon which makes the workout less effective for endurance performance.
    • overall HIIT places stress on the body, so there is a greater risk of injury if tissues haven't been progressed to the higher intensities properly (another reason you need to build that base).
    • the aerobic base building you get from steady state cardio will aid in developing the aerobic fitness and prepare the body for more vigorous exercise to come.

in summary, HIIT is more favorable when used for more general fitness and/or body fat reduction goals. endurance athletes should proceed with caution when considering HIIT for their training plans because if implemented too quickly injury can occur and performance can suffer (which is the opposite of what we want)!

if you have any questions you'd like to ask the trainers, let me know in the comments! i'd love to keep this as a regular segment on my blog.

ps - i know this post looks sponsored, but it's not. i want to give appropriate credit where credit is due (hence including the applied fitness solutions logo) because these guys work hard and are taking time out of their day to answer all the questions i throw at them on a regular basis :) check out the applied fitness solutions blog for more answers to commonly asked fitness questions! 


  1. YES!

    When I think of all my trainer has told me to do over the past year, I am not understanding why I did a lot of interval running work paired with their circuit weight loss class. It was all about this HIIT idea, even if it wasn't a formal "HIIT Class." It really, really helped me burn fat and its nice to know the science of why now!

    I got a HIIT disc in one of my subscription boxes. Maybe it was Klutch? I'm not sure. I'll find the name and send it to you, see if you have it. It was SUPER intense, but you could modify it. That's what I had to do.


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