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Benefits of HIIT for Runner's VO2 Max

Why we Need to Increase our VO2 Max

While we run, during the increased effort, we can see some physiological changes. The two most obvious changes we start to feel is breathing harder and our heart pumping faster. We need to increase in breath rate and heart rate, our heart pumps the oxygenated blood to our working muscles. Our body requires oxygen to create energy for sustained cardiovascular exercise. The more oxygen we can efficiently consume and use, the easier our run will feel with higher intensity level. Increasing our VO2 Max will improve our running performance, and increase our anaerobic threshold. Anaerobic means without oxygen, to help us to keep moving. Eventually we will have to slow down to return to the aerobic level of intensity. A higher VO2 Max is also a sign of a higher anaerobic threshold, which means a higher level of lactic acid tolerance. It also improves our cardiovascular capacity, and helps provide more oxygen to our muscles. This is the benefit of training to improve our VO2 Max.

VO2 Max is the measurement of the maximum oxygen delivery and utilization for running and cardiovascular exercises. Our VO2 Max is actually governed by our genetics, that is why our VO2 Max can improve, but even runners following the same type of training plan, will have different levels of VO2 Max. We should focus on increasing our personal VO2 Max level, not to match other runners or elite runners’ VO2 Max.

Some common training sessions to increase our VO2 Max level are uphill training, and speedwork sessions. On the other hand, HIIT sessions can be so effective to increase our level of VO2 Max. To add regular HIIT sessions, can be also efficient to increase our whole fitness level, with stronger muscles, core, legs, and VO2 Max. HIIT sessions can provide some different type of training than running, so we can enjoy different types of fun exercises.

What is HIIT

HIIT is compromised of short hard burst of cardio exercise, it is one of the best ways to increase our VO2 Max along with uphill and speedwork sessions. The reason is that HIIT causes us to temporarily surpass our anaerobic threshold before returning to a lower aerobic intensity. This type of training causes our heart and lungs to adapt the higher demand, and increase our VO2 Max to our genetic limits.

Performing hill repeats, track speed sessions, or speedwork will be very efficient, but adding other types of HIIT training sessions will help increase our VO2 Max in different ways.

To perform HIIT intervals combined with bodyweight or strength training exercises will have major benefits. Include any type of cardio exercises such as:

  • Jump rope

  • Running stairs up & down

  • High knees

  • Squat jumps

  • Burpees

  • Jumping jacks

  • Bear crawls

  • Lunge jumps

  • Box jumps

  • Plank jacks

  • Mountain climbers

  • Plank side jumps (jump feet side to side)

  • Squat thrust

Cardio Exercises Video:

Perform 6-8 cardio exercises combined with 6-8 muscle and core strength exercises 45 secs to 1 minute each. To take a short recovery time 15-30 secs, will help increase our VO2 Max.

If you’re looking to increase your VO2 Max, perform 3 sessions/week.

For long-distance runners, HIIT sessions can be a smart base-building strategy. Longer, lower intensity exercise like easy pace long runs increases the number of mitochondria (cells that produce chemical energy stored in ATP) in our cells, which is why people perform long, steady endurance runs to build base. High-intensity training makes those mitochondria more powerful, and performing high-intensity exercises regularly can stimulate the production of mitochondria.

Increasing our VO2 Max won’t happen overnight, depending on our fitness level, it can take from 1 month (moderately fit) up to 4 months (very fit). We just need to focus on discipline and motivation!

Perform HIIT Training, Get Stronger and Run Stronger!


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