Mar 052012
 


High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has recently been in the press as a revolutionary method of training that gives you greater results in far less time when compared to low intensity training.

It is based on the concept of short high intensity efforts followed by periods of recovery and then repeated a number of times. The research shows that it can improve both speed and endurance, reduce your risk of heart disease, increase your metabolism, improve insulin sensitivity and increase fat loss at a greater rate than conventional low intensity training can.

Whether you are training to lose weight, improve fitness or run a marathon, intervals should be an essential part of everybody’s exercise routine. How many intervals , how long the intervals are and how much rest you should have depends on what you are training for but by there are a few simple guidelines that will allow you to find what is best for you.

How long should my interval be?

For general fitness anywhere from 20 seconds to 2 minutes will be suitable. For long distance runners then 2-5 minutes will be a better option and for those that play a sport involving short bursts such as football or rugby then 10-20 seconds would be recommended.

How hard should the interval be?

You should exercise at the highest intensity possible that allows you to do the same amount of work in the last interval as the first one. So for example if you run 400m in 2 minutes for the first one then , you should be able to maintain that speed for every interval. If your speed decreases with each interval then your first one was too fast. If you are using a cardiovascular machine in the gym then take note of what speed you do for your first interval and try and maintain that speed for every interval.

If you rate how hard exercise is on a scale of 1-10 where a casual stroll is measured as 1 and 10 is as hard as you could possibly go then your first interval should feel like a 6 or 7 and the last interval should feel like a 9. It may take a while to train your body to work this hard but this is what you are aiming for. If you can talk during the interval then you certainly aren’t going hard enough, although it may take a few intervals before you reach this intensity.

How do I know how fast to go?

Judging what pace to exercise at takes a bit of experience. To begin with simply start at a pace slightly higher than what you are used to. So for example if you normally ride a bike at 25km per hour then do your first interval at 27, then increase it by 1 or 2 km per hour until you reach an intensity that feels very hard. It may take you a few sessions to figure it all out but better to do that than do your first interval at 40 km per hour, and then get slower.

How easy should the rest be?

Very, very easy. As long as you are moving that is hard enough, so if you are running then slow to a very slow jog or walk, if you are in the gym then as long as your legs are moving that’s fine. The rest is for recovery, if you go too fast in the recovery you want be able to work as hard in the interval.

How long should the recovery be?

To start with have the same amount of time in recovery as you did in the work interval. So if you go hard for a minute then go easy for a minute. So whilst a shorter interval may sound easier keep in mind the rest is also shorter. As your fitness increases you can either decrease the rest and try and maintain the same speed or have more recovery and go at a faster speed.

How many should I do?

As many as you can fit into approx 20 minutes. So if you are doing one minute intervals then you should do around ten I.e ten lots of one minute hard followed by one minute easy.

How fit do I need to be before I can start intervals?

If you can exercise continuously for 30 minutes with no problems then you are ready for intervals.

Is Interval Training suitable for anyone?

Age is no barrier to high intensity training. Of course if you have any kind of heart condition or any other medical condition check with your doctor first.

Do I need to warm up?

Definitely. Spend 5-10 minutes warming up gradually increase the intensity as the warm up progresses.

Example workout.

Exercise Bike

Warm up
5 minutes at level 2 at 80 RPM
2 minutes at level 4 at 80 RPM
1 minute at level 5 at 80 RPM
1 minute at level 5 at 100 RPM
1 minute at level 2 at 80 RPM

Interval session
10x1minute

1st Interval
1 minute at Level 6 at 90 RPM
followed by 1 minute recovery at level 2 at 50 RPM

2nd Interval
1 minute at Level 7 at 90 RPM
followed by 1 minute recovery at level 2 at 50 RPM

3rd Interval
1 minute at Level 7 at 100 RPM
followed by 1 minute recovery at level 2 at 50 RPM

4th Interval
1 minute at Level 8 at 90 RPM
followed by 1 minute recovery at level 2 at 50 RPM

5th Interval
1 minute at Level 8 at 100 RPM
followed by 1 minute recovery at level 2 at 50 RPM

6th Interval
1 minute at Level 9 at 90 RPM
followed by 1 minute recovery at level 2 50 RPM
At this stage you realise this is about as fast as you can go

7th Interval
1 minute at Level 9 at 90 RPm
followed by 1 minute recovery at level 2 50 RPM

8th Interval
1 minute at Level 9 at 90 RPM
followed by 1 minute recovery at level 2 50 RPM

9th Interval
1 minute at Level 9 at 90 RPM
followed by 1 minute recovery at level 2 50 RPM

10th Interval
1 minute at Level 9 at 90 RPM

Cool Down
Easy 5 minutes

Next time you did this session the goal would be to try and increase the number of intervals you can do at level 9 at 90 RPM

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