So that's not a typo. HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training is a relatively new method to train distance runners but it's actually been around for quite some time. We have adapted this training from the weightlifting community. Weightlifters would put on more weight lift with much more intensity but less reps total and longer recovery in between. They found this produced bigger gains that the less weight and more reps. The concept is tried and true and as we mentioned around for a long time but what we have seen the last few years is this same concept adapted towards not only sprint runners and jumpers which makes sense but also for longer distance runners. Early on there was some resistance to this move and hesitation that it was the wrong way to go. I will include myself in this category as it challenged our traditional way of thinking in the distance world. As we learned more about the benefits of HIIT I became more convinced that not only is it a good training method but should be incorporated as a common and core component of any distance training program.
So what are these benefits we keep talking about? Before I answer this let me clarify that HIITs are not for everyone. You need to have a a solid base of endurance running and even have done some more traditional speed workouts before adding HIITs. What I mean by traditional is AT work, 400 repeats, 800 intervals, etc. All of this will make sure your body is prepared not only to not get injured but also gain the full benefits of these workouts. The benefits are as follows. First of all HIITs like it's weightlifting counterpart makes the muscles stronger but the muscles I'm speaking of is the heart and in general the cardiovascular system. HIITs will ensure it is much stronger and therefore able to pump more blood to the through the body and in particular to the "running" muscles meaning your legs etc. Remember more blood means more oxygen, more oxygen means faster running. The next benefit is that those "running" muscles themselves get better at using the oxygen being delivered by the blood. What's the point of receiving more oxygen if your muscle can't use it. Finally HIITS also provides a benefit of improving your stride. Your stride will become more efficient as the coordination between your central nervous system and those "running" muscles improves and provides a quicker cadence and more fluid running form.
So let's put this into practice. First of all as always make sure you do a proper warm-up of 1-2 miles of Easy pace running. You should have a leg swing drill or other similar drills to do before any speed workout but especially these type of higher intensity bouts. The most straight forward workouts is to do 6 100 meter reps all out but with 2-3 minutes of recovery in between. Recovery can be walking or jogging but no standing for that time only. That can lead to tightness and possible injury. As you get more comfortable with these increase the number of reps and the distance of the reps but no longer than 300 meters. You can also reduce the recovery time but no lower than 1 minute. After of course do a cool-down of 2 miles of Easy pace running. Now that being said my favorite variation of HIITs is to do it blind. Ok just to clarify I do NOT mean to put on a blindfold or close your eyes what I mean is that you are not aware of the distance of the rep. You need a coach or a partner that will help you with this and a good loud whistle. Runners jog around the track and and at 1 whistle blow they run all out without knowing when the rep will end. Could be 8 sec could be 30 seconds it will vary. When the coach decides they will blow the whistle 2 times and go into a slow jog or even walk. Recovery should be at least double of the hard effort. Then the whistles blows once again for go! Do this for only 5-15 min total but offers a great workout on its own or an add-on to other interval work. The reason I like these is that it adds on more benefit to the list. Developing your runners brain muscles is just as important as the other muscles. This makes a runner more mental strong and prepared to handle anything on the track or road.
Here is what a typical HIIT workout would look like:
2 miles warm-up at Easy pace
with 3 min recovery of walking or jogging in between
2 Miles cool-down at Easy pace
Hope you found this helpful and as always best of luck chasing your running dreams!
Coach Rojas has 11 combined years of coaching experience at various levels including coaching a high school D1 State finalist team and 3 years in a row of a top 10 state ranking. He is passionate of the sport of running and loves to see new runners take up the sport! He wants to share a lifetime of running experience to all