Do You Ever HIIT It?

This week hasn’t exactly been a textbook training week for me. Work has been unexpectedly busy; I stayed in the office later than normal on several nights this week, did some teaching on Saturday and out of the corner of my eye I am haunted by the sight of a mini Everest of essays which are taunting me to start the climb of marking.

I love my work, I really do; but like all things in life, it can sometimes get in the way of other things. As a result, I’ve simply not been able to find the time to fit in some of my scheduled workouts this week.

On Tuesday I returned from work late and hungry and was in no state to tackle the tempo intervals which my training schedule demanded. I opted for a quick, hilly fartlek run instead and mentally postponed the intervals until Thursday, hoping I’d have more time then. Naturally, when Thursday came my workload (and associated mania) had only grown: when I stumbled into my little house on Thursday evening (out of the darkness and the pouring rain), a quick glance at my watch confirmed that provided I ate dinner straight out of the fridge and while standing up, I could spare a whopping 30 minutes for a run before having to resume my ascend of the mountain of marking. (Sadly, the latter does not pass for a hill workout!).

Thankfully, there is one running workout that I can comfortably complete in the space of half an hour, including warm-up and cool-down: the hard-hitting 10x100m sprint repeats. I really don’t like being in a situation where I genuinely can’t complete a certain workout, but I’ll be damned if I don’t go out and do what I can to come home sweaty, stinky and gasping for breath regardless.

How I feel after a sprint workout:

run hard

Although my running efforts are very much geared towards the training for endurance events, I still see much value in a sprint workout: in addition to directly improving leg strength and running form, it also increases the odds of being able to fathom that charmed sprint finish at the end of a marathon.

While it’s hard to pick up a running magazine these days that doesn’t contain at least one reference to the supposed neigh magical qualities of the HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session, the concept is hardly a new one; in the 1970s the great Seb Coe already ran HIIT sessions.

New is only the fact that a number of recent research studies have reported evidence that HIIT training might be superior to traditional endurance workouts in improving athletic performance – hence all the hype. However, the same research also suggests that there are individual variations in how well athletes respond to this type of training, which may have genetic underpinnings – so even the true deciples of HIIT training acknowledge that it doesn’t seem to work for everyone.

Personally, I believe in the importance of continually working on many aspects of my running fitness; including strength, endurance, stamina, balance and flexibility. For me, sprint sessions are therefore an important, even if occasional part of my training as an endurance athlete. However, just like any other workout, I believe that sprint repeats contribute to improve my running fitness primarily within the context of a well-rounded training system, rather than being a magical quick fix in and by themselves.

I’m curious: what do you make of the HIIT-hype? And to the endurance athletes amongst you, do you include such workouts in your training regimes?

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16 thoughts on “Do You Ever HIIT It?

  1. TartanJogger says:

    I try to fit in HIIT runs, but to be honest, I find it had to motivate myself. When @theWookie is running with me it’s easier, as I won’t want him to finish stronger than me, so I definitely push more!

    • Oh that’s interesting – I wonder how it would go if I could run them with someone else! I usually fit in a HIIT session when I really don’t have time for more – there’s a small park behind my house with a football pitch, which is almost exactly 100m long, so I have my “lane” right there. If I have more time, I’ll almost always opt for a longer, stamina building workout. Having said that, I think the sprints are important, and they certainly hurt!

  2. Angie says:

    I do these (when I can run) and sort of like them. I’m not a great sprinter so I’m sure I don’t look very fast, but they make me feel fast. I like variety so I’m all about HIIT’s, tempos, hills etc.

    • I feel the same way Angie – variety is the key not only to all-round fitness but also to staying motivated and having lots of fun with different workouts. I like that they are so quick. It’s one of the few workouts I can fully complete while only running about 4km and still feel sore all over. 😉 I hope you’ll be fully back to running soon, and just in time for spring!

  3. This is something I really need to incorporate back into my training. After I injured myself last summer, I slowed my running pace down and I stopped working on speed out of fear of re-injuring myself!

    • I think you are doing the right thing by taking things slow – few runners seem to realise that they need to increase their speedwork gradually (just like we increase the mileage gradually) in order to keep injuries in check. You’ll get there, I’m sure! I’m really starting to enjoy my regular and structured speedwork, and honestly struggle to remember how I really ran without it! =)

  4. Trails and Ultras says:

    You know how I feel about speed workouts. We’ve discussed this before. Frankly, I’m hurt that you would want to remind me of the trauma and pain. (On a more serious note, I do think HIIT and other speed play help build strength. So I begrudgingly do them. Sometimes.)

    • Hahah… you know you secretly want to join me on the dark side. You know, the place where runners run intervals and sprint up hills until they throw up. It’s wonderful. Go on… you know you want to…!

      • Trails and Ultras says:

        …and I’ve just found out that the training at the running club on Wednesday is hill repeats. Sigh.

  5. I have a love/hate relationship with workouts like these. They’re uncomfortable but really improve your pace and overall fitness.

    • I totally agree! I sometimes find it hard to convince myself to do a workout that I know will make me feel like throwing up before the end. 😉 At the same time, they make all other running feel a lot easier, so there’s much value in them. And as an added bonus, at least they don’t take much time!

  6. runstilettos says:

    Yes, I just started incorporated HIIT and Plyo workouts into my endurance training- I’m certain it’ll pay off and I can’t wait to see the results when I start training hard again for a fall marathon!

    • I’m sure that it’ll pay off too! I also really like to incorporate sprints and hill sessions early in the training cycle. Although they are great workouts in their own rights, I also think they are very good in preparing me for the interval and longer stamina workouts ahead. Which fall marathon are you aiming for?

      • runstilettos says:

        That’s a great idea to tackle them on the bike as part of training! I’ll have to coordinate that in the future :). I’ll be running the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon in October.

  7. I’m finding that Metafit once or twice a week is making a huge difference to my running and so this has now replaced my previous speed work involving running or bike intervals.

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