Living an active lifestyle outdoors? Here’s how HIIT can provide longevity and boost your performance.
Due to its notoriety for burning calories and toning the body in a short amount of time, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a popular form of exercise among both fitness junkies and professional athletes.
While HIIT may seem like a recent fitness phenomenon, it actually became popular for training athletes in the early 1950s. Emil Zátopek, an Olympic long-distance runner, claimed the 1952 Helsinki Olympic 10,000 meter race after incorporating HIIT into his training regime. Since then, some of the greatest athletes have made high-intensity cardio and strength training part of their training programs, including soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo and seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer.
Utilizing high-intensity interval training can enhance your athleticism on every level. Tackling HIIT workouts allows you to build an effective and long-lasting fitness routine as you exercise to stay on top of your game in a competitive endeavor.
A good example of how HIIT can refine the physical strength and endurance of athletes comes from a study by researchers at Willamette University in Oregon. They assessed the effectiveness of HIIT and endurance running among soccer players to see which form of exercise impacted soccer performance. They divided the players in two groups--one that performed five 30-second maximal sprints followed by 3.5-4.5 minutes of recovery, and one that completed 40 minutes of continuous running at 80% of their anaerobic capacity (the highest amount of oxygen consumed during maximal exercise). In both groups, the maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen increased by 4%, from 50.7 to 52.7 mL O2/kg/min.
Many sporting activities, such as cycling and running, involve repetitive movements that place stress and strain on certain muscle groups while ignoring others. These repetitive movements can cause microtrauma or injury to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, which impact your sport performance and ability to exercise effectively.
Regular and consistent practice of various high-intensity exercises can help you gain lean muscle mass. HIIT is extremely effective for activating parts of your body that may be underused in your chosen athletic discipline. Core-centric exercises help to boost balance and stability, drastically reducing chances of overuse injuries and allowing an efficient transfer of energy during exercise.
When our bodies perform short bursts of high-intensity movements separated by brief periods of rest, we are pushing ourselves to a point where we can work harder and longer with less required recovery. Interval training works on the principle of adaptation. During intense exercise, the body’s oxygen becomes limited, leading to a buildup of lactic acid in muscles which can cause muscle soreness and the inability to push the exercise further.
By regularly engaging in high-intensity intervals that produce lactic acid, the body is able to adapt to the increased training load and burn lactic acid more efficiently. This means athletes can cope with a higher-intensity exercise for a longer period of time before fatigue or pain slows them down.
While any type of exercise boosts the brain’s cognitive function, high-intensity intervals offer the greatest benefits. HIIT workout sessions are designed to improve the circulation of oxygen to the brain. The intense periods of work strip mitochondria (organelles that convert cell nutrients to energy) of oxygen; however, during the short recovery segment of HIIT when the flow of oxygen to the body increases, the mitochondria increase oxygen consumption. This provides greater blood flow to the brain, giving you the awareness and mindfulness you need to take both your training and performance to the next level.
As an athlete, you are always looking for ways to reach your full potential. Upping your game and improving past performances doesn't just come down to natural talent. Practicing the activity is not always enough to gain the physical traits required to excel in that sport. If you’re working toward a fitter you, factors such as cardiovascular strength, core strength, and fat loss are crucial for maximum performance.