Recent research is suggesting that high intensity interval training (HIIT) might be an ideal way to help runners increase their speed and endurance, especially when it comes to ultra marathon runners. The researchers at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia found that runners with the fastest finish times tend to have a greater anaerobic fitness capacity pre race.

We tend to consider our cardio workouts aerobic ones, which refers to how well the body uses oxygen when you have access to plenty of it. During a casual jog for example, it’s not too hard to get a nice breath in. The anaerobic capacity on the other hand refers to how well the body uses oxygen when it’s lacking, such as during an intense sprint when it’s harder to get a breath of air.

The study took place using ten healthy male mountain marathon competitors. All of them were of similar ages, weights, and heights. They tested the men on both their aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels, first by having them run on a treadmill (for aerobic), and then had them seated cycling on an ergometer (for the anaerobic.)

The study author Michael Rogers

“All our participants finished the race. The regression results indicated that those with higher anaerobic capacity were predicted to have a faster finishing time. This prediction of race finishing time was significant at a 5 percent level and explained 54 percent of the variance in finishing times.”

However, since it was just explained 54 percent of the variance there is a lot more research that needs to be done on the topic before these findings are totally confirmed.

The ultra marathon runners have to deal with general endurance over long lengths but also deal with conditions like changes in elevation, terrain, and even weather. It makes sense that a dynamic approach to training would help in these circumstances.

If you’re interesting in doing your own HIIT, it’s pretty easy. You can even do just a ten minute HIIT workout on a treadmill that can give you great results. A beginner’s treadmill journey of HIIT might be doing 20 seconds of work followed by 40 seconds of recovery, and repeat this ten times. Don’t take other breaks besides the recovery portion, and make sure that your work segment is actually work like a significant increase in sprint speed. It can be pretty challenging but that’s the point, and it’s over quickly so try to enjoy it while it lasts. As you progress you might swap those numbers to 30 seconds of work, 30 seconds of recovery, followed by 40 seconds of work, 20 seconds of recovery.

HIIT can be a great way to burn fat without losing muscle as you lose weight, which is a concern for a lot of men who rely on the treadmill for their cardio exercise. It’s really the recovery state where you’re making the most process, since the HIIT raises your heart rate and metabolism for a longer time post exercise than general aerobic exercise does.