High Intensity Interval Training
Doing you more harm than good?
Studies show hard training sessions quickly improve athletic performance, but if they come with an injury rate of 50 percent would you still do them?
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT for short) has been a mainstay of training programs and systems for only a short period of time. 30 years might sound like a long time, but in an industry, it’s just a snapshot of time.
Studies time and time again show that HIIT protocols do indeed improve athletic performance. HIIT can be described as performing short 10-30 seconds high efforts followed by a short recovery (10-60 seconds) before repeating for up to 8 to 10 total efforts. The high effort would be in the range of 90% of your VO2 max. VO2 max is the maximum effort you can sustain before going red line and you stop using oxygen to create fuel. You instead go into a zone of using other short lived fuels like creatine and lactate.
However, what most studies do not report is that the period we can sustain such training sessions is short, like 4 to 6 weeks. Continue to flog yourself much further and injury rates escalate as do over training risks.
For athletes following a professionally designed program, a period of time would include HIIT training but only during a peaking phase of 4 to 6 weeks of a training program leading up to competition. They do not follow HIIT all year round.
As Doctor Phil Maffetone wrote:
“Anaerobic function creates higher levels of physical and biochemical stress, decreases immune function and muscle repair, increases inflammation, increases the risk of muscle injury and impairs fat-burning. These conditions are also associated with poor (or a lack of) recovery, and are common components of and contributors to the overtraining syndrome.”
So why does the fitness industry keep banging away at the idea that you gotta keep banging away at yourself??
Because HIIT is sexy?
Because high effort is equated to suffering and deserved favourable outcomes??
Because our parents and grandparents suffered to provide for us???
Who knows where the western notion of high effort, suffered and reward stems from, but it is very much a western attraction to fitness. Yes, other cultures follow rights of passage, coming of age rituals, but it’s not an every-day thing!
As I continue, I want to throw out these reality checks for you to ponder:
- Every day exercise is a driver to good, better and optimal health.
- Athletic Sport performance is NOT about health. It’s about doing everything that must be done to out perform the competition.
When I raced my bike in the 90s, I didn’t race and nor did my colleagues or competition race to improve our health. We trained to race, to do better than every else. The same can be said for most other sports too.
High intensity interval training used too much is not about health, it’s about taking physical performance to its highest potential, regardless of impact on health.
Here’s a glimpse of a couple of studies:
The British Journal of Sports Medicine published the results of a short-term training program, designed by health professionals to reduce running injuries that still resulted in a 30 percent injury rate (Taunton et al., 2013).
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning published a study that showed the popular and notoriously high-intensity sport of CrossFit has an estimated injury rate of 73.5 percent with 7 percent of these injuries requiring surgery (Hak et al., 2013).
One thing researchers may agree on is that they don’t really know what particular exercise effort is best for a given athlete. While the concept of individuality is an accepted approach to programming, it’s not used to a valuable capacity.
The media will continue to present snippets of research, telling us the new solution is here, and people will jump on board the coolaid train, only to risk increased injury and ill health.
Where does higher effort fit into the fitness equation?
Next week I’ll share how a week should look, driven by non-agenda health leaders, recovery and regression from effort rates.
Until then, what do you think? Do you look first at when you’ll do your HIIT or is it something you’ll add once all other areas have been covered?
Let me know.