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Just like many other type of athletes, runners too have practiced interval workouts for decades and have relied on the benefits of sprint interval training to up their overall performance, especially when they’re part of a diverse program that is composed of jogging, cross running, long runs, tempo running, and more. This is method is widely applied not only by professional sportsmen, but by amateurs and sport fans who just want to stay in shape and feel healthy. Let’s not neglect the fact that this type of physical session is not as time consuming as others, so it’s perfect for busy people. Before moving on to discussing the positives, let’s take a fast glance at its essence so even the running newbies know what we’re talking about here.
What is sprint interval training?
It’s a kind of (HIT) high intensity workout that in contrast to long-duration running requires maximum exertion for a particular time (shorter gaps). It’s said to increase a person’s anaerobic limit and stamina, burn more fat and calories, not only during the workout, but also for hours after it, as it boosts your metabolism greatly.
What are the benefits of sprint interval training?
1. Enhances the Body’s Ability to Burn Fat
We already hinted at this HIT running advantage. The body’s ability to mobilize and burn body fat (a process called “metabolic flexibility”) is of huge importance if you’re goal is to stay lean. Unfortunately, there are many people who don’t have good fat adaptation, hence their craving/necessity for carbohydrates during the day to keep fatigue at bay. If their organism was better fat adopted, they would be much more successful in converting their stored body fat into energy. Achieving effective metabolic flexibility can be done in 2 ways: first one is reducing the intake of carbs, which works better only for leaner individuals. Overweight ones will benefit more from focused, well-planned exercise programs, such as short interval running (of course, best results are observed with a combination of the right diet and physical activity).
Among various studies, there was one that featured 10 men who weren’t all professional sportsmen, but they all had to ride a bike intensively and spend 2 periods of 24 hours in a metabolic room that measured their calorie burn while inside. The first day, the participants didn’t do anything that involved physical activity, but the before entering the chamber the second day, they rode a bicycle vigorously for 45 minutes. The results pointed that over the next 14 hours, the volunteers burned an extra 190 cal. Leading to a total of 37% higher calorie combustion.
2. Improves Heart Health And Blood Pressure
There are numerous studies that back these benefits of hiit. Traditionally, doctors have always recommended continuous moderate intensity training (CMT) with a duration of at least half an hour for people with hypertension or for those who want to prevent it. And while that’s has been proved helpful, a few studies have revealed the superiority of high intensity interval workout advantages over those of CMT. Characteristics of such HIT trainings consist of rounds from 1 to 4 minutes bestrewed with active recovery or recovery intervals.
The dominance of short interval sport sessions over continuous moderate intensity ones expresses in better cardiorespiratory fitness, insulin sensitivity, endothelial functioning and its markers, arterial stiffness (in hypertensive individuals or normotensives with relatives with high hypertension risk), and markers of sympathetic activity. Namely those are the factors that turn the tides in favor of highly intensive interval workouts when it comes to cardiovascular health.
In another study that included short interval cycling sessions, resulted in participants having lower systolic blood pressure.
3. Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Regulating blood sugar is crucial not just to diabetes-suffering individuals, but to everyone else as well. If you’re aiming at interval running for weight loss, you should monitor your blood sugar levels more often than usual. The good thing is this type of workout is has proven its use in managing blood sugar levels.
4. Improves Physical Performance
High intensity interval running can boost your running performance and general physical performance, and that’s backed up by studies too. Keep in mind that following a pattern of regular and prolonged training such as distanced running for example, the human body gets used to higher stress in the form of physical strain. That means the effects you’re looking for wouldn’t be that noticeable after some time. You’ll have to mix it up a little and bring new challenges to your body, or else it would reach a stalemate point. HIT training such as short interval running are perfect for this purpose. They’ll elevate the body’s maximal oxygen absorption as well as transportation to the heart, utilization by the cells, and oxygen capacity in the lungs.
To boot, your metabolism’s functioning will be improved and you’ll have better energy combustion as another one of the benefits of spring interval running (this is again associated with increased fat burn). When you take both these things under consideration, you’d be able to elevate your body performance a great deal, resulting in faster and longer running.
5. Fit and Lean Legs
Spring interval training burns fat all over the body, not just the waist area, hence they’re one of the best workout methods for fat loss and that’s a fact. Lean legs need highly developed musculature. That means, you can benefit of interval training, when you’re looking to build chiseled body. Intervals would help you form and maintain muscle in the thighs, gluteal muscles and calves. Effects can be even more prominent when you perform other exercises that involve the lower body, such as: cycling, squats, rowing, swimming etc. Sprints are effective because they can augment protein synthesis pathways with by up to 230%, which in turn increases the size and strength of the fast-twitch fibers.
6. Better Six Pack
Doing only sit-ups won’t get you that far if you want cutter ABS. To have great abs, you would need to remove the excessive fat that’s covering them up. You can fill out your six pack with weight lifting but if you want to make it leaner first, HIT running and a proper diet is the way to go. As mentioned earlier, intervals entice your body to utilize and burn energy more efficiently, as well as reduce inflammation. That’s why they normalize your metabolism.
7. Higher Growth Hormone and Testosterone
High intensity training in shorter intervals has been shown to increase both GH and T levels numerous times. Observation shows that women could benefit from increasing growth hormone better, while men may be able to get a better free testosterone boost.
For instance, male athletes who did a 10 set 30 second cycle sprints, significantly increased T and similar hormones. Another trial showed that professional wrestlers who did six 35 meter sprints with a 10 second break between each, exhibited elevated testosterone and decreased cortisol, leading to a great proportion between both hormones.
To compare the results in women, another study featured three 30 second тоp intensity sprints, after which the ladies showed higher growth hormone boost than men. According to many scientists, sprint interval training benefits should be sought by women, because the production of growth hormone has been known to help shed fat and is likely featured in tissue repair, though it’s still not clear how exactly.
8. Greater Power
Strength is expressed quickly by your power and being solely strong may not be sufficient. To achieve your power’s full capacity, you’d need to train your body to utilize right the stretch-shortening cycle, i.e the elastic part of the muscle. Any type of explosive high intensity interval training will help. That way, you’d increase your power and gradually, you’ll start feeling that low intensity workouts are much easier.
9. Increased Endurance
Many people aren’t aware of the fact that interval workouts are more effective than steady-state ones for maximizing endurance and speed. Here are the following reasons for that:
- Intervals push the body to utilize energy more effectively by upping the glycogen amount that can be stored in the muscles by around 20%.
- You’ll have better muscle glycogen preservation by utilizing fat for energy better, which will extend the capacity of your workout.
- Running interval training will improve your muscles buffering capacity, which represents their ability to diminish the accumulating acid in them, and thus slowing down muscle fatigue.
10. Better Brain Function
Working out has been proven dozens of times to be a major player in augmenting one’s cognitive functions, with higher intensities showing even greater results. A study comparing medium-intensity running vs high intensity sprints concluded that HIT training sessions resulted in better short-term memory and superior ability to retain learned material. Another study showed that participants improved their memory of new vocabulary by 20%, compared to a group of people who didn’t engage in sports. Some of the reasons for that according to scientists is that following an interval running plan elevates adrenaline hormones that can stimulate the brain while also boosting other neurotransmitter hormones like dopamine and serotonin.
11. Good Mood
Stemming from benefit of interval running number 10, HIT workouts like this can help you feel emotionally more stable and calm. Not only does short interval high intensity training stimulate your organism to produce more dopamine and serotonin, but it also boosts the production of beta-endorphins, more effectively than moderate-intensity workouts at that. Basically, it seems there is a correlation that states that the higher the intensity and the higher the lactic acid levels, the better the release of beneficial beta-endorphins.
12. Reduced Risk of Falling and Tripping
Whether you do interval running on treadmill or in the open air, interval will improve your coordination and power by charging the nervous system, so you would have faster reactions and steps. This type of physical workout also improves the fast-twitch muscles (as noted earlier in the article), and these muscles are connected to fall prevention in elderly people. Because we should concentrate on mobility and coordination as we age, it makes short interval running a more reasonable option than cardio-style exercises.
Who is suitable for starting high intensity interval running?
You can start running interval training for beginners if you aren’t a regular sports practitioner, but the cool thing is, you can reap from its benefits as much as an advanced athlete, if not more in the beginning. Why? Because salutary effects are more notable in individuals who have a lot of to improve, more fat to lose (which means fat loss would be more profound than in a shredded athlete), and much more muscle yet to build.
With that in mind, anyone can perform spring interval trainings, as they are perfect for getting into running and building endurance fast. Keep in mind that intensity is essential. Before you commence in that though, as someone who isn’t used to that kind of physical exertion, it’s highly recommendable to first get used to normal running (like jogging or crossing) to develop at least basic level of endurance. Be careful not to overload yourself in the beginning, because you increase your chances of injuries or cause your body too much stress and fatigue.
Some people quit running too soon, because when they start, they find distance running boring. That’s why short interval sprints when combined with walk breaks for cool down can make things so much more interesting. You can even cover more distance by alternating interval running with walking, than with just normal running, as you’ll have time for rest between separate sprints.
This type of running training is also good from a social point of view. As a beginner, if you don’t feel comfortable enough going out and doing it alone, you can have a friend by your side, because while having walking breaks from the interval sprints, you can chat with your buddy about usual stuff.
Keep in mind that as a newbie in this, you should choose your own intensity and interval lengths, as well as time to recover between sets. Gradually increase intensity and sprinting duration in time when you feel ready.
Here are some general guidelines for short interval training running for beginners:
Running interval training for beginners can be simple:
- Go to a running stadium or to the nearest park.
- Warm up before everything else to avoid injuries! Do some stretching, warm your limbs good, your joints, knee caps, leg tendons, ankles, your waist and back. Do some jumping jacks to speed up your heart rhythm.
- Method 1: Run at a rather quick pace for 30 seconds. If you feel tired already, don’t worry, switch to walking or light jogging for 2 minutes. Rev up the initial intensity again. When you feel tired again, shift to another 30 second jogging. Continue like that until you get fully tired or just do 10 intervals of “run-rest”.
- Method 2: Perform 15-60 second sprints with recoveries of 1-4 minutes. The duration of rests would depend on the duration of the sprints. Naturally, longer sprints require longer rests. Play with that until you adjust your own optimal ratio. For starters, you can target a total minimum of 4 minutes of sprinting or a maximum of 8 minutes. You should also keep moving at a low pace throughout your recovery cycles.
- Do spring interval training 1-2 times a week. Please, keep in mind that high intensity trainings are very energy-draining and the body should have at least 48 hours of recovery time between 2 such workouts. It’s advisable not to do more than 3 such workouts. Depending on your condition, on 2 or 3 other days of the week, you can do weight-lifting for example with moderate to heavy weight in order to build and maintain your muscle mass.
- Keep at it and you’ll feel high intensity running benefits in no time. You’ll bulk up muscle, burn fat and feel much stronger and sharper.
Stay healthy and fit!