Make Training a H.I.I.T.

Happy New Year and welcome to the January newsletter,

Old school coaching called for long, slow base training to build fitness during the beginning of the year.  I still remember riding in the small chain ring for hours with my bike club during the winter.  The only thing that made it bearable was that I was riding with friends and we could commiserate together.  Doing intense workouts was not recommended because it was thought that it could result in injury.

We now know that all three energy systems (e.g., aerobic, anaerobic and ATP-CP) work concurrently, depending on effort.  When you are training at an easy aerobic pace, you are using your slow-twitch muscle fibers and most of your energy comes from fat.  As you train harder, you continue to metabolize fat and burn increasing amounts of glycogen.  The harder you train, the proportion of energy coming from glycogen increases and your body recruits your fast-twitch muscle fibers, in addition to slow-twitch fibers.

Most coaches now prescribe a combination of aerobic and anaerobic workouts throughout the year to build, maintain and peak fitness for their athletes.  The art of training lies in the coach’s ability to change the percentages of aerobic and anaerobic workouts throughout the year to bring their athletes to peak fitness for their “A” races.  Additionally, the percentages of aerobic and anaerobic training are unique to each individual and to each race distance.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts are time efficient and involve a series of repeated bouts of high intensity exercises interspersed with short periods of low to moderate recovery.  Typical ratios for work to recovery are from 1:1 to 1:5. The intervals are usually repeated anywhere between 4 – 20 times with workouts averaging between 45 – 60 minutes (including a warm up and a cool down).

HIIT workouts have been proven to improve anaerobic and aerobic capacity as well as helping reduce the loss of muscle size and strength.  Additional benefits include enhanced recovery due to low training volume as well as improved cardiovascular function resulting in reduced heart rate and increased stroke volume.  This is great news for multisport athletes that are time-crunched and who need to train efficiently.

The importance of aerobic training is still relevant because it increases the overall fitness of your muscles, ligaments and tendons making them fit enough to support harder training without injury.  Aerobic training boosts your respiratory system by providing more oxygen to the blood supply.  It also increases the efficiency of your heart so that it can pump more blood to your muscles.  Aerobic training improves the stroke volume and the amount of blood pumped per heartbeat.  Additionally, it increases the capacity of your liver and muscles to store carbohydrates.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends the following exercise guidelines.

1. Endurance Exercises:

• Moderate-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise for 30 minutes or more a day on five or more days a week for a total of 150 – 300 minutes per week.


• Vigorous-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise for at least 20 minutes per day at least three days a week, totaling 75 minutes per week.


• A combination of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity exercise.


2. Strength Training:

• Two to three days per week which should include exercises for all major muscle groups (e.g., shoulders, arms, chest, core, hips and legs).  30 minutes per session.


3. Stretching / Flexibility Exercises:

• Stretch all parts of your body at least twice a week, 5 – 10 minutes per session.


4. Weight-Bearing Exercises:

• A minimum of 90 minutes a week of weight-bearing activity for strong bones.  This can be accomplished by walking or running as well as full-body strength training.


5. Balance Exercises:

• Incorporate balance and agility exercises two to three times a week.  This can be easily included in your strength training routine.


These are the guidelines that I incorporate into my athlete’s training programs and I would encourage all of you to include them in yours.


Stay healthy,


USAT Level 2 Endurance Coach

ACSM Certified Personal Trainer

Total Immersion Certified Coach