High intensity interval training is a wonderful fat burner, it stimulates metabolism, improves physical capacity of your body (it trains your cardiovascular system), it helps to build aerobic and anaerobic endurance, and if you are not wel-trained sportsman, it can even help you build your muscles. How to start a variable intensity training? How to enter HIIT sessions in your training plain? I will try to answer this and more of your questions in the following article.

You should definitely read:

HIIT for fat loss!

Hint: start slowly

Interval training is a big challenge for your organism. Are you able to do outdoor running for 40 minutes without any break? If not, high intensity interval training is not recommended. If you have trained irregularily so far, too heavy session makes no sense. You won't be able to keep up the high treshold of intensity (for example keep the high pace during speed-ups).

Try low-intensity schemes, for example:

  • run for 1 minute at a pace slightly faster than normally (ie. you cover every kilometre 15-30 seconds faster. Normal pace is 5 minutes. You should speed it up to 4:45 – 4:30 minutes per every kilometre),
  • rest for 1-2 minutes; which means you run at your normal pace.

Repeat the whole cycle of sprint and rest 8 to 10 times. As your condition grows better, within 6 to 10 weeks gradually increase your pace, duration and number of intervals. Also shorten the time of rest and extend the time of sprint (for example cut 5 seconds from your lower pace running, and add 5 seconds to sprint part per session).

Your plan can look as follows:

  • Warm-up – constant-pace run
  • Sprint: 1 minute (4:30 - 4:50 min/km), 2 minutes of rest or low-intensity run
  • Sprint: 1 minute, 2 minutes of rest or low-intensity run
  • Sprint: 1 minute, 2 minutes of rest or low-intensity run
  • Sprint: 1 minute, 2 minutes of rest or low-intensity run
  • Sprint: 1 minute, 1 minute of rest or low-intensity run
  • Sprint: 1 minute, 1 minute of rest or low-intensity run
  • Sprint: 1 minute, 1 minute of rest or low-intensity run
  • Sprint: 1 minute, 1 minute of rest or low-intensity run
  • Cool-down, streaching

To sum up: 8 sprint sessions, each lasting for 1 minute = 8 minutes of high-intensity work, 16 minutes of rest (with 2 minutes resting variant) or 10 minutes of rest (low-intensity run for 1 and 2 minutes variant). The whole main part of the session takes 24 minutes. You can cover the whole training in 30 minutes.  

If such interval work is too heavy for you, simply start running for 15-20 minutes, steadily, at a pace that is adequate for you. Every time add 1 to 2 minutes of run to your training, and within a few weeks increase your distance. Also, as you keep training, gradually (after 3-4 weeks) increace your running pace.

Exemplary running training scheme for 8 weeks:

Week 1: 15 minutes of run, 2-3 times a week

Week 2: 17 minutes of run

Week 3: 19 minutes of run (including 5 minutes at a bit faster pace)

Week 4: 21 minutes of run (including 6 minutes at a bit faster pace)

Week 5: 23 minutes of run (including 7 minutes at a bit faster pace)

Week 6: 25 minutes of run (including 8 minutes at a bit faster pace)

Week 7: 27 minutes of run (including 9 minutes at a bit faster pace)

Week 8: 30 minutes of run (including 10 minutes at a bit faster pace)

If you are in good shape, you can start your standard interval training directly.

Start from the following proportion: 15 seconds of work, 45-60 seconds of rest.

Work: sprint or run at a higher than regular pace, a series of knees-to-chest jumps, burpees, thrusters – every exercise that employs most of muscles in your body will do.

Rest: static or moving. Staic – when you are not moving. Moving: low-intensity run, jumps, marching, march in place.

Exemplary interval training 15/45:

Warm-up – run for 5-7 minutes

10 intervals: 15 seconds of speed-up, 45 seconds of rest

Steady pace run for 15-20 minutes



How to put HIIT into your weekly training plan?

Schedule: only running trainings, incluing 1 interval session:

Monday: Steady pace run (low-intensity) for 30-40 minutes


Wednesday: steady pace run + 10 intervals 15/45 (the whole session lasts for 20-30 minutes)


Friday: Steady pace run (low-intensity) for 30-40 minutes

Saturday/Sunday - NO TRAINING

You can also use a modified schedule.

Schedule: only running trainings, including 2 interval sessions:

Monday: Steady pace run (low-intensity) + intervals SESSION A (10 x 15/45); the whole training takes 20-30 minutes

Tuesday: Steady pace run for 30-40 minutes

Wednesday: NO TRAINING

Thursday: Steady pace run (low-intensity) + intervals SESSION B (10 x 15/45); the whole training takes 20-30 minutes




What about strength training and running?

A weekly schedule: 3 x strength training + 2 x interval running

Monday: strength training for 60-70 minutes (session A)

Tuesday: Steady pace run (low-intensity) + interval SESSION A (10 x 15/45); the whole training takes 20-30 minutes

Wednesday: NO TRAINING

Thursday: strength training for 60-70 minutes (session B)

Friday: Steady pace run (low-intensity) + interval SESSION B (10 x 15/45); the whole training takes 20-30 minutes

Saturday: strength training for 60-70 minutes (session C)


Can I do the intervals on an empty stomach?

No, you can't! High-intensity interval training (VO2 max) must never be done on an empty stomach. It's dangerous for your health; you can have hypoglycemia! You can try low-intensity intervals in the morning, but afternoon interval trainings are equally effective.

Is fat reduction about how many calories I can burn during training?

Amount of calories burnt during your training is of less importance. You want to increase the basal metabolic rate (BMR, REE). For example, an interval training can last for several minutes and is way more effective than 3-4 times longer cardio trainings. During tests an intervals group lost 2,5 kgs of fat within 15 weeks while while having only 3 trainings a week, each training lasting for 20 minutes. Another group of ladies did three 40-minutes long low-intensity sessions, and they didn't lose any fat [Trapp 2008].

Can I run just after a strength training?

You may, but this way you limit your gains and reduce your interval training results. There will be more and better results if you do the interval training on days when you don't work on your strength.

Can I run in the morning and do a strength training in the evening?

Yes, you can, but you should match your trainings properly, for example you can reduce your distance,  pace or number of repetitions in the strength training.

Can I run on no-training days?

If you don't make sure that your body gets enough time to regenerate, you can expose yourself to a threat of a concussion (no matter if you train on no-training days, if you run, do martial arts or strength training). You should give your body minimum 2 days of rest. You can try to experiment after months and months of training but t least in the beginning you should be be reasonable.

How should I measure sprint time?

Use a standard stopwatch and count 15 seconds of a speed-up and 45 seconds of a rest. This makes a whole minute. You can buy a watch with interval functions, download an app on your phone or buy a specially intended equipment.

Can I do the interval training on a treadmill?

The efficiency of such a training will be low. If you can, run outdoors.

Should I secure my muscles from catabolism (BCAA, carbohydrates)?

If you eat a balanced diet, such fears are groundless. You would have to train for many hours in very unfavourable conditions (with no food nor water) to lose muscles. You may, but you don't have to, supplement amino acids before and during the interval training, and carbohydrates and proteins after one.

Do I have to change my diet?

If you limit your caloric intake, you will see positive effects of the training much quicker. No change in your eating habits means slower progress.

Do I need to buy „fat burner”?

There is no need to buy any fat burner for the first couple, over dozen weeks of training.

Only if you notice stagnation:

  • after losing many kilos,
  • after many changes in your diet,
  • adding interval and cardio sessions, 

and there is no progress or reduction is slower, you may start to cosider purchase of some fat burning supplementation. In majority of cases, though, the problem is a wrong diet and discordant training. Even if you add a fat burner, it won't help much.

Interval training can a great tool in fat reduction and work for better endurance. But you should know when and how to use it in order not to ruin results of your other trainings.

Sources: 1. “Interval training helps elite athletes get fitter without overtraining” http://www.ergo-log.com/interval-training-helps-elite-athletes-get-fitter-without-overtraining.html 2. „Patofizjologia człowieka w zarysie” J. Guzek 3. „Współczesny trening siły mięśniowej” wyd II, Adam Zając, Michał Wilk, Stanisław Poprzęcki, Bogdan Bacik, Remigiusz Rzepka, Kazimierz Mikołajec, Karina Nowak Katowice 2010 4. „Fizjologia człowieka z elementami fizjologii stosowanej i klinicznej”. Władysław Z. Traczyk, Andrzej Trzebski; Wydawnictwo Lekarskie Pzwl 2004 5. „Fizjologiczne podstawy wysiłku fizycznego”, J. Górski Wydawnictwo Lekarskie PZWL 6. “High-Intensity Interval Resistance Training (HIRT) influences resting energy expenditure and respiratory ratio in non-dieting individuals”. J Transl Med. 2012 Nov 24;10:237. doi: 10.1186/1479-5876-10-237. Department of Biomedical Sciences, Physiological Laboratory, University of Padova, via Marzolo 3, Padova 35131, Italy. 7. http://www.charlespoliquin.com/Blog/tabid/130/EntryId/1944/Tip-557-Lose-Fat-With-High-Intensity-Resistance-Training.aspx#sthash.XPAuKBHw.dpuf 8. http://anabolicminds.com/forum/content/hiit-fat-loss-3045/ 9. “The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women. “ Trapp EG, Chisholm DJ, Freund J, Boutcher SH. International Journal of Obesity. 2008;32(4):684–691. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18197184 10. “The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males” J Obes. 2012; 2012: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3375095/#B8 11. http://www.ergo-log.com/interval-training-helps-the-obese-lose-weight.html 12. http://potreningu.pl/artykuly/1017/mity-dotyczace-hiit-oraz-innych-form-treningu-interwalowego