The official Olympic countdown has begun, and you’re psyched to watch world class athletes from around the world do what they do best. It’s all at once inspiring, amazing, and beautiful, and exciting to watch. You wonder about the athletes: their eating plan, their families, what they do in their downtime, and their training schedule. Just how many hours a day have these men and women dedicated to fitness to get to where they are today? And what kind of exercises do they do? Well, we have at least one answer for you. Some of these awe-inspiring athletes probably do the same workouts that you do at the studio. Among HIIT’s ever-increasing fans: Olympians. It turns out that HIIT-style training has solidified its place firmly in the Olympics.
- Swimming in Rio for Team USA, Elizabeth Beisel utilizes HIIT workouts for her training, and says that they’re her favorite type of workout.
- English Gymnast Louis Smith, who specializes in the pommel horse, recently took a rare, much-needed break from regular gym workouts. Having not been away from the gym for more than two weeks since the age of 4, he went on vacation, and ate and drank as he liked. After returning home and tackling his fitness again, he says he was able to get his physique back “surprisingly quickly” after sticking to a schedule of regular HIIT workouts.
- Carlin Isles and team captain Madison Hughes on the US rugby team do regular HIIT-style rowing and cycling workouts. Says Isles, “Really understanding your body is key – you have to know when to push yourself and when to back off.”
- Daryl Homer, a medal-winning fencer, relies on HIIT workouts to keep “everything short, tight, and explosive.”
- Swimmer Ryan Lochte almost called it quits in 2014 after suffering two consecutive knee injuries. Instead, he just focused harder on his training which included, you guessed it, a good chunk of interval training.
- Former Olympian Jenny Pacey believes in high-intensity interval training so much that she’s also helped develop a HIIT-based exercise program called Pace and Go. She touts HIIT workouts as the key to getting her in shape, quickly and effectively.
Ready for your “I didn’t know that!” moment? Tabata training (one version of HIIT) was actually made popular in Japan by Olympic athletes. Dr. Izumi Tabata conducted a study to determine just how well this type of exercise works. His study compared two groups of exercisers. The first group performed one hour of moderate exercise five times a week for six weeks and the second group performed four-minute intervals of 20 seconds of high intensity exercise and 10 seconds of rest (Hello, HIIT!) four times per week and one day of extended cardio. The results? The group performing the four minute intervals improved in both aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels, while the moderate exercise group only improved in aerobic fitness levels.
The next time you hit the studio for your workout, you can be sure that you’re doing some of the best, most-effective exercise available. Studies and Olympic athletes say that it’s intensely healthy and produces impressive results. But you already knew that.