Why You Should Use Interval Training?
Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN
One obvious advantage of interval training over continuous running is that this method of training provides a means of performing large amounts of high-intensity exercise in a short time. What this means to you is that you can cover more distance, burn more fat, and improve your aerobic capacity (VO2 max) in less time.
This has been shown time and time again.
Interval Training for Burning Fat and VO2 Max Improvements
A 2006 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology examined the effects of seven high-intensity aerobic interval training (HIIT) sessions over 2 weeks on skeletal muscle, aerobic capacity, and fat burning adaptations among eight women.
Each session consisted of ten 4-minute bouts at 90% of their VO2 max with 2 minutes of rest between intervals. As a result of just 7 interval workouts (over 2 weeks), the women increased their VO2 max by 13%. Whole body fat burning also increased by 36% after HIIT.
The researchers summed up their study by stating that just seven sessions of HIIT over 2 weeks induced marked increases in whole body and skeletal muscle capacity for fatty acid oxidation (fat burning) during exercise in moderately active women. Pretty powerful stuff.
Now, although this study shows some very promising results with the use of interval training workouts, it should be remembered the protocol that was used in the study was a very lengthy 60 minutes of interval training. Don't get me wrong, this is a very effective interval training protocol but it is very difficult for most people to perform. Furthermore, it doesn't exemplify one of HIIT claims to fame - time efficiency.
Personally, I think you can accomplish just as much in 1/3 of the time with a different interval set-up. But that's the beauty of HIIT - there are so many possible training protocols that will produce spectacular effects.
However, this amount of training volume could be very beneficial for someone who is training for a half-marathon. In fact, Treadmill Trainer Volume 4 is set-up in a similar fashion to what was used in the study and its been amazingly powerful at helping our clients run a faster 10k and train for half-marathon runs.
Interval Training Saves You Time and Produces Better Results
Personally, I'm a big fan of short, intense workouts because they save time and produce amazing results. That's why I love high-intensity interval sprint training. Let's have a look at another study to see how time efficient these HIIT workouts can be.
A very recent 2008 study in the Journal of Physiology investigated whether low-volume sprint interval training (SIT) could stimulate rapid improvements that are comparable to levels reached following traditional long duration endurance training (ET). Amazingly, this was the first to do so!
Ten active, but untrained, subjects performed a cycling challenge (1 h at 65% of peak oxygen uptake before and after 6 weeks of either SIT or ET.
The sprint training consisted of four to six repeats of a 30 s ‘all out’ Wingate Test with 4.5 minutes recovery between repeats, 3 days per week.
The endurance training consisted of 40–60 min of continuous cycling at a workload that elicited 65% per day, 5 days per week.
The weekly time commitment was 1.5 hours and 4.5 hours for the SIT and ET groups, respectively, and total training volume was substantially lower in SIT versus ET.
Despite these huge training volume differences, both training protocols induced similar physiological improvements. For instacne, glycogen and phosphocreatine utilization during exercise were reduced after training. And, whole-body carbohydrate and fat oxidation were decreased and increased, respectively! This means that the subjects could last longer because they were burning their fuel sources more efficiently.
Given the markedly lower training volume in the SIT group, these data suggest that high-intensity interval training is a time-efficient altnerative to long, boring cardio. Although this study used cycling, I'm sure you can see the benefits a similar interval workout plan could have for your runs!
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Talanian, J et al. (2006). Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. Journal of Applied Physiology. 102: 1439-1447.
Burgomaster, K. (2008). Similar metabolic adaptations during exercise after low volume sprint interval and traditional endurance training in humans. Journal of Physiology. 586 (1): 151-160.
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