High Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT) has become a buzzword lately in the fitness community. A form of interval training classified by short bursts of high-intensity exercise cycled with lower-intensity recovery periods, the concept of HIIT is taking sprint training to new heights.
With proven benefits such as increasing the body’s V02 max and overall endurance, as well as burning calories more efficiently in less time than low intensity steady state training, HIIT running workouts are a great option for both beginners and seasoned racers.
Because higher-intensity cardio requires the output of significant effort, it’s also naturally very taxing to the body, and carries with it the risk of serious injury. The American Journal of Medicine cited excessive forms of high intensity exercise such as spin classes, as a possible instigator of rhabdomyolysis (destroyed muscle fibers leaking into the bloodstream due to muscle trauma), which can lead to kidney damage. Other, more common injuries include ankle and knee sprains, acute back, shoulder or hip pain, stress fractures and plantar fasciitis. Even if an injury isn’t as serious as muscle trauma, poor form and recovery technique has the potential to hamper training progress and can cause a lot of undue discomfort.
Inadequate Warm Ups
Too often, beginners assume that they can do a brief warm up at the start of a HIIT session, or use the exercise itself as a warm up for another type of workout like weight training. Experts actually suggest splitting higher intensity cardio and strength training into separate days of the week, and warming up for interval running with a 20-minute jog that ends with a round of intense dynamic activity.
Additionally, neglecting to build ankle and joint strength in supplementary training can also lead to poor form and increased risk of injury for runners, whether they are striving for endurance or speed. Incorporating movements like jumps and stretches, or utilizing equipment like exercise bands in your dynamic warmup are great ways to build stability.
Sticking to one type of terrain
By exclusively running under a specific set of conditions, it logically follows that the body could get used to performing in that environment, and might have trouble adapting. For example, during colder weather, many runners stick to a treadmill HIIT circuit, and even though that same workout can be perfectly adapted in an outdoor environment, when transitioning back and forth injuries can spring up.
It is important to adjust a treadmill workout to reflect different terrains, whether it’s raising and lowering the incline significantly to mimic hill running, or even just beyond a 1-1.5 incline to reflect typical outdoor conditions like wind resistance.
Training too long or often
A common fault of runners following a program is overtraining either in the duration or frequency of the workout, which ultimately causes more harm through injury than any benefit in training. As mentioned above, it’s a good rule of thumb to maintain reasonable workouts (anywhere from 20-45 minutes is fine for most people, depending on intensity), sticking to one type of exercise or muscle group at a time, and making sure to allocate plenty of time for rest and recovery.
HIIT running workouts have the potential to elevate a training program, but should be approached with caution and guidance. Much like any intensive workout regime, the potential for varying degrees of injury is still there.