How to Build High Intensity Interval Training Into Your Training

For athletes who have performed continuous training or have previously injured themselves from participating in high intensity interval training (HIIT), HIIT may become a very foreign and neglected form of training.

Regardless of whether you are a sprint distance triathlete or ultra distance runner, neglecting HIIT can be a great disservice to your performance.

HIIT Training

As previously discussed (Aerobic Capacity), HIIT has shown to be very effective in improving aerobic capacity.

To put it simply, if an athlete has the aerobic capacity to cycle at 100w and cycles at 60w, they are using 60% capacity. If their aerobic capacity increases to 180w and cycles at the same intensity (60w), they are only using 33% of their capacity.

This results in athletes being able to use less energy to produce the same effort, athletes can then perform for longer, and they are less likely to injure themselves which is something that increases as you reach your capacity.

Consider This

Firstly, before introducing HIIT training into a program, athletes must understand the variables that cause training to become easier or harder. A simple concept is looking at the FITT principle:

Frequency: How often you perform HIIT training. Eg. 2x/week

Intensity: How hard is each interval. Eg. 70% VO2max, 90-95% VO2max

Time: How long each interval lasts. Eg. 1:1 work to rest ratio with each interval lasting 4mins in duration

Type: The type of training being performed

Endurance Athletes

For endurance athletes who perform most of their training at a low intensity, high intensity training is a completely different stimulus. It results in higher force production from your muscles; if running, greater impact forces to joints in the lower body, and causes greater neuromuscular fatigue.

Therefore, athletes should start conservatively, and increase each variable slowly. 

For example:

Cycling – Aerobic Capacity VO2 session (2x per week)

  • 5 sets of 4mins work @300w and 4 mins rest @150w

Athletes may look to manipulate: 

  • Frequency of sessions by starting with 1 session
  • Intensity of the session by lowering the power output to work @250w to allow the body to adjust to the higher workload
  • Time of interval by starting with 2 minutes work and 2 minutes rest instead of 4 minutes
  • Type: Harder to manipulate on the bike but if you were running, you may do a bike session so that 1 session is a high lower body impact and 1 is a low lower body impact stimulus

Increasing Load

Athletes should increase only 1 variable by 5-10% each session or week to ensure that they do not overload the body to reduce their risk of injury, and allow the body more time to tolerate the new workload to ensure the sessions are performed to their highest quality.

Note that these guidelines are general guidelines and training is different from athlete to athlete.

Want To Know More

We have more information about this and other training approaches in our Sports Science section of the website.

If you would like to know more or to start training to improve your cycling or running performance, please contact our Exercise Physiologist Justin to book in a session.

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