In recent years High Intensity Interval Training (short: HIIT) has become fashionable. And it seems to me as if this method must be the best way to get fit and lean. The argument sounds compelling: Short and tough efforts take a lot more energy than easy going long endurance trainings. Therefore the effect from HIIT on your fitness and body weight would be greater than the gains you get from traditional endurance workouts. And the best of all would be that a unit of HIIT can be crammed in 20 minutes whereas long endurance training takes 90 minutes or even more. At the end of the day you can get better results in less time, according to HIIT proponents. This is good news for busy people or guys, who find usual cardio exercises boring.
Now, I have to add that I am a fan of HIIT. So I would subscribe to the proponent’s arguments. However there is a pitfall: You can become strong and lean by doing HIIT, but you will never become an athlete without doing extensive and low intensity units at least in the off-season.
Think of a pro cyclist who aims to finish the Tour de France. What do you think does his schedule looks like? I tell you: This guy spends 90 or more percent of his time on medium and low intensity rides in the early stage of a season. This is the way a cyclist builds the basis of a race winning shape. On top of this fundament our to-be Tour-de-France-finisher grows his anaerobic capacity by doing high intensity intervals, tempo slamming, up-hill racing and – of course – participating in competitions.
Hence, if you want to finish a something like this, that or that, you have a lot of aerobic work to do in the first place. In this respect HIIT is not the silver bullet, but a great workout to complement your schedule and sharpen your form before you take your personal long distance challenge.