It’s a common misconception that spending countless hours every week working out is the best way to get in shape, lose weight and improve health. For example, running, cycling, and swimming 3-4 days a week at the same low intensity, and duration. Often, most of these workouts are relatively slower than an interval pace.    

Many are unaware that continuing to work out at the same pace every day (or most days of the week) can actually lead to more injuries than performing a variety of exercises at a more elevated intensity once or twice a week. This breaks up the monotony of doing the same routine over and over, and allows other muscles to get involved and reduces overuse injuries.

Fortunately there is a more advanced form of exercise that is showing improved performance and weight loss results, but with decreased injury and less time spent actually working out by performing short, intense intervals, rather than your typical long slow run, bike or swim session. 

For endurance athletes, don’t worry, you can still go long, just remember that shorter, high intensity workouts have their place too. Points to take away are that short intense workouts can add variety to your running and exercise program, reduce overuse injuries, improve economy, and enhance performance.  Adding interval training is often the missing ingredient. 

If you are a runner, check out Jack Daniels’ running formula book for more info on the benefits of interval training.

If you are more into lifting weights and don’t like endurance events, but still want to learn about the positive benefits of interval training, please check out The New Rules of Lifting.  It’s a great read and will change the way you think about lifting!

The Gibala Study:

Oftentimes, something that claims to achieve the same results in just minutes a day isn’t always the most reliable, but a recent scientific study proved just that. The study (Gibala) was performed on a group of physically active males over a two-week period. The subjects were split in groups of two with one partaking in short, intense workouts (SIT) and the other performing longer and less active exercises (ET). The SIT group worked out a small 2 ½ hours over two weeks while the ET group worked out 10 ½ hours.

The exercises involved 30-second high intensity spurts of cycling with a total of 4 minutes resting time for the SIT group, and 90-120 minutes of continual cycling for the ET group. During these two weeks many things were measured to ensure accurate results. Subjects were given muscle biopsies before and after the two-week period, as well as being subjected to a series of endurance tests and time trials. Each person was also instructed to keep a food diary and follow a particular diet in order to keep the results similar across the board.

The study was thorough and results showed that over those two weeks patients’ exercise performance, muscle oxidative capacity, and muscle buffering capacity was similar if not more enhanced after performing SIT workouts as opposed to ET workouts.

Therefore, they concluded that you can achieve the same beneficial results adding high intensity interval sessions to your workout routine – ranging from 20-30 minutes.  The biggest thing to keep in mind is that it’s the variety of the SIT workouts that really benefit you the most. Having an interchanging, fast-paced workout once or twice a week will not only improve training and performance, it also burns the most fat resulting in more weight loss.

I often work with runners who are continually bombarded with overuse injuries -such as IT-Band Syndrome, Runners knee, and plantar fasciitis – what seems to work quite well is Active Release Techniques to improve soft tissue health, incorporate corrective exercises to combat muscular imbalances and to make small changes to running/exercise program. 

 If most of the runs are at the same intensity, then we substitute a few runs with more quality efforts, such as intervals and hill repeats.  This type of training improves technique, builds strength and enhances the overall program.   Their responses have been outstanding…

If you already include high intensity interval training or more quality work to your routine, that’s great – would like to hear what works and what kind of impact it has made.  Let me know…


Cole Ellis