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High-Intensity Interval Training for Runners. Unlocking Massive Gains.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is often associated with some form of “4-minute fat burner” workout, which IS NOT what I am talking about.

HIIT workouts consist of repeated bouts of high-intensity work performed above the lactate threshold (a perceived effort of “hard” or greater) or critical speed/power, interspersed by periods of low-intensity exercise or complete rest.

HIIT has the benefit of adding speed to your training without adding much fatigue when compared to traditional interval training.

Research shows that completing a workout of 3x {13x 30sec ‘fast’ – 15 sec ‘easy’} can increase your workout time above VO2max by an average of 54% when compared to traditional long intervals (4 x 5 min work-intervals, 2.5min rest) (Almquist NW, 2020).

One of several important differences between short (SI) and long intervals (LI) is explained by an interesting mechanism described by sports science guru Per-Olof Åstrand in 1960. Myoglobin (the oxygen carrier inside the muscle cells) functions as an O2-store at the beginning of each short work interval. During the recovery periods of SI, myoglobin is reloaded with O2, thereby reducing anaerobic glycolysis (carb burning) and lactate build-up in the following work interval

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HIIT Benefits

✅ Improves functional speed
✅ Neuromuscular improvements
✅ VO2max improvements
✅ Increases mitochondria
✅ Minimal injury risk
✅ Variety
✅ Fun
✅ Makes you feel like a pro 😎

When researchers analysed the muscular and hormonal response to HIIT they found that despite exercising at a higher physiological strain, there was a similar acute muscular response (mRNA) to long intervals. However, the blood levels of testosterone and cortisol were higher HIIT, indicating a greater systemic stress, which might increase training adaptations and contribute to greater performance improvements after weeks of training.

While HIIT workouts aren’t a direct replacement for aerobic runs or event-specific workouts, they do present a hugely beneficial tool in our training toolbox.

My recommendation is to include HIIT workouts in your base phase or ultramarathon build to minimise the chance of injury and staleness by creating a diverse physiological and neuromuscular stimulus.

Here’s a workout for you to try;

2x {15x 30sec @ 5km race pace | 1min easy} | 5min easy between sets
Remember to warm up and cool down!

Happy Running!

Dr Will

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