HIIT has hit the headlines because it appears to be a shortcut to fitness. From the research carried out it appears that the benefits of HIIT are at least as great as those of base training but these benefits can be achieved with far less time on the bike. This, therefore, makes HIIT a tempting approaching for any rider who has limited time - which, in reality, is most of us.
Most training plans involve some kind of interval training. Essentially a HIIT session is simply an interval session where the intervals are undertaken above threshold and most athletes will already be completing these types of sessions within their training, be it on the turbo or on the road. In fact, you may even be doing HIIT without even knowing it, by sprinting between successive sets of traffic lights, or attacking a local climb.
The good news, then, is that with HIIT you can have your cake and eat it. It doesn't have to be a black and white decision between HIIT and base training. There is no reason why in a good training programme you can’t seize the benefits of HIIT and combine them with the benefits of base training, building a solid base to give you the foundations of aerobic fitness, perhaps to tackle a 100-mile sportive or 25-mile time trial, and layering high intensity form on top.
Mix it up
I often use HIIT sessions with my coaching clients
during the working week when they have limited time but will combine these sessions with longer endurance rides and longer intervals over the weekend.
As with all types of training, when using HIIT sessions it's important to understand the benefits and limitations of that particular approach and apply it correctly to make the most of the time you have available. By using a periodised approach to training - in other words, both steady-state rides and high-intensity intervals - you can achieve the greatest advances in fitness and form. Don't be a slave to one or the other.
If you are find yourself pushed for time then a HIIT session of 30 minutes will be a lot more effective than 30 minutes in zone two, so my recommendation would be to include one or two HITT sessions per week, ideally on the days when you'd normally have limited time for a ride.
With that in mind, let's finish with an example of a HIIT session that you can build into your training schedule.