The Ultimate Guide to High-Intensity Interval Training for Runners
7 min read
HIIT can take your training and performance to the next level. Here's everything you need to know about this super effective style of training.
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short, was named one of the top fitness trends in the world for 2020, based on an annual survey by the American College of Sports Medicine. This super hard, super effective style of training isn't just the "it" workout of the moment—of the 14 years ACSM has been conducting this survey, HIIT ranked in the top three spots for six consecutive years.

Why? Because it works, and it works fast. Whether you're coming straight off the couch, training for a marathon, or even if you race for a living, HIIT training is good for your health and makes you fitter and faster.

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What Exactly Is HIIT?

HIIT sounds very scientific, but it's really very simple. It's comprised of short, hard bouts of cardio exercise—anywhere from 10 seconds to five minutes in length—broken up by brief recovery periods.

How hard is hard? That depends on the interval length, but the key is to go as hard as you can for the duration of the effort. So if you're doing Tabatas (20 seconds of effort, followed by 10 seconds of recovery), you're running full throttle for 20 seconds. If you're doing longer, 3- to 5-minute intervals, you're working in your VO2 max zone, or about 95 percent of your max heart rate (or a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10) for the duration of the interval.

How much recovery you take between intervals depends on your goals. Short intervals are usually paired with equally short or even shorter recovery periods so your body can adapt to repeated maximal efforts. And because your heart rate stays elevated during the recovery periods, your aerobic energy system gets a training benefit, as well. In other cases, such as high-intensity sprints, you want each effort to be done at max, so you need to let your body fully recover for four or five minutes between bouts.

What Are the Benefits…
Selene Yeager
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