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No time for long runs? Why HIIT works for me
Running
I've done HIIT workouts running around the neighborhood, in the living room and even at the park while I watch my kids play. Although some people may use basic equipment, none is needed. It's hard to find another type of workout that matches the convenience and efficiency of HIIT. - photo by istockphoto.com

Distance running has been part of my life since I was young. I wore out pair after pair of shoes as I hit the roads or trails almost daily. In college it wasn’t uncommon for my teammates and I to put in 60 miles a week, and I had intentions to train for a marathon.

That was 10 years ago and, well, life changed. I still run, but it’s mostly chasing my kids! With young children, not enough sleep and a busy schedule, exercise time (and motivation) is limited.

After the birth of my third child, I struggled losing weight and decided I’d better lace up the running shoes again and start those eight-milers. I soon faced the same issue of little time and motivation for long runs. Even more discouraging was seeing no results when I did manage to get in some mileage.

I battled with this for a few months until a friend and certified personal trainer suggested HIIT (high intensity interval training). Interval training was a regular part of my college routine, but I supposed that was for serious competition and hadn’t considered modifying this kind of exercise for simply getting in shape and losing weight. I was told that for burning fat, a hard 20-minute workout could have more benefits for me than an eight-mile run. Twenty minutes? Yes, this was for me!

What are HIIT workouts?

HIIT workouts can be described as alternating between intense bursts of exercise and a short recovery period of low-intensity exercise. For example, if I want to go for a run, I could warm up, sprint hard for 60 seconds, then jog for two minutes and repeat this four times or more. HIIT can incorporate more than running. Workouts can include body weight exercises (split jumps, lunges, etc.), jump roping, stair climbing, biking, weights or a variety of other activities. I’ve tried several different combinations of exercises with success.

It’s no surprise HIIT is one of the top fitness trends of 2014. These workouts boast several benefits:

Fat burning and increased metabolism

According to the Strength and Conditioning Journal, these shorter, intense workouts are superior in fat burning to steady cardio training. The body burns more fat at higher intensities, and its need for oxygen increases. These workouts can create an afterburn result, or EPOC (excess-post exercise oxygen consumption). You can burn more calories than you normally would for up to 24 hours after a workout.

It’s fast

While many HIIT workouts take 15-30 minutes, there are workouts that can take as little as four minutes. My average workout is around 20 minutes. I used to think 20 minutes wasn’t much of a workout -- but not anymore!

You can do it anywhere

I’ve done HIIT workouts running around the neighborhood, in the living room and even at the park while I watch my kids play. Although some people may use basic equipment, none is needed. It’s hard to find another type of workout that matches the convenience and efficiency of HIIT.

The list continues...

Some additional benefits of HIIT include increased aerobic capacity, preserving and building muscle, improved insulin sensitivity and a healthier heart.

While the benefits are substantial, it should be noted that there’s an increased risk of overtraining and injury, as the exercise is more intense than some are used to. Adequate recovery between workouts is vital and will increase chances of success.

As soon as I incorporated HIIT workouts into my exercise routine two to three times a week, I started seeing results. With these workouts, some calorie tracking and added protein to my diet, I have steadily lost fat during the past year while maintaining muscle (according to results from the InBody 230 Body Composition Analyzer). And though I still enjoy an occasional long run, the variety of workouts with HIIT keeps me motivated.

Perhaps at another stage of life I’ll have time to run that marathon, but for now, HIIT is a win for my family and me.

More ideas for HIIT workouts:

7 High Intensity workouts that take 20 minutes or less

Best HIIT treadmill workout to burn fat

High-intensity interval training: less is more

(Visit RunUtah.com for more articles. Contact Danielle Longhurst at danielle.longhurst@gmail.com.)