HIIT – Is 10 minutes enough?

High-Intensity Interval Training

Is 10 minutes really enough?

I recently posted about how I haven’t done any long distance endurance training for the past six weeks. Life gets crazy! Work keeps me busy, my one-year-old daughter has more energy than a golden retriever puppy, and my husband has been working longer days, leaving less time for workouts.

Instead, I have focused on short high-intensity workouts to build strength and maintain my endurance. But does that work? Do short high-intensity sessions really increase aerobic metabolism?

What is High-Intensity Training (HIT) or High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?

HIIT benefitsHIIT refers to repeated multiple brief high-intensity exercises separated by multiple rest breaks. For example 30 seconds ‘all out’ sprint, 10-second rest, repeated five times. It is often associated with exercises such as running, bicycling, and other cardio activities.

You may also hear this referred to as ‘tabata training’ or HIIT. If you want a quick 4-minute workout, download a ‘Tabata Timer’ app. It’s great for a do-anywhere workout! In Crossfit, athletes often complete max effort strength training exercises, sometimes limited by time. This workout style is also great for increasing endurance and strength.

But does it work?!

HIIT benefitsGibala & McGee (2008) used a muscle biopsy to test for changes in metabolism following an HIT cycling program. In multiple studies, they have found an improvement in the oxidative capacity of 15-35% after a 2-week program. In one study, the HIT group only completed a total of 2.5 hours (compared to 10.5 hours) and saw very similar changes in exercise performance. Not to be biased, but I am totally citing this article because I am a Mac alumni, and these were my profs!

So yes, research shows that high-intensity training a very time-efficient strategy to improve endurance without spending hours hitting the pavement.

“Elite endurance athletes have long appreciated the role of high-intensity interval exercise as part of a comprehensive training program. Recent evidence suggests that
in young, healthy persons of average fitness intense interval exercise is a time-efficient strategy to stimulate a number of skeletal muscle adaptations that are comparable to traditional endurance training”(Gibala & McGee, 2008).

In my personal experience…

My daughter when she was tiny hanging out at Crossfit!

I have not run any significant distance in 6 weeks, BUT I have been doing short, high-intensity workouts at the gym and go to Crossfit once a week. I wouldn’t consider myself an elite athlete by the way. I am usually at the gym for a total of 45 minutes (with warm up, cool down and dropping my daughter off at the daycare!). I LOVE getting a great sweat in a short amount of time (and believe me, I sweat buckets). I often finish my workouts off with a 5-minute sprint interval and mix in some strength and cardio exercises such as burpees or wall balls. I was able to pick up running right where I left off, ran a smooth 5 miles and didn’t feel exhausted or gasping for air like I would have felt in the past.

Bottom Line…

HIIT benefitsDoes this mean you can just do HIIT and then go run a marathon? Heck no, that’s a recipe for disaster. But this does mean that the typical training plans that include hours a week of just endurance training may be outdated, boring, and overly time consuming. I believe HIIT is the way to go! What do you think?? Would love to hear your comments below!


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