What’s the difference between Running vs HIIT?
Running vs High Intensity Interval Training – What’s the difference and are the relative benefits of one over the other?
After every FounderFit session we have a Q&A session where you can pick our brains on the topics of exercise, nutrition and wellbeing.
Each week, we pick one and feature it here so all of our members can benefit.
This week’s question:
Is there a difference between running vs HIIT style exercise? Are there relative benefits of one over the other?
Sunil, Free Your Flow
Great question, which I’m sure many of you share. So here we go.
Movement and Modality
Really, this question is two different questions rolled into one.
There are two factors to consider here – the movement, and the modality.
In the first 4 week block of the FounderFit MVP we perform the HIIT section by doing Burpees.
Running and Burpees are two different movements, so part of the question is:
“What is the difference between doing burpees to keep fit, or going for a run?”
When Sunil typically goes for a run, he does so for much longer than 4 minutes. He also maintains a steady pace, unlike in High Intensity Interval Training. This more traditional way of training is technically known as “Steady State Cardio – SSC”.
You can also do HIIT by running – well, technically it would be sprinting. You can do steady state cardio using burpees – you’d simply need to keep doing burpees continuously at a constant rate. (Many years ago I did 500 consecutive burpees for charity, oh what fun!).
So the second part of the question is:
“What is the difference between steady state cardio and HIIT?”
Running vs Burpees for Health and Fitness
Running vs Burpees: What’s the difference to your health and fitness? Is there a benefit of one over the other?
Both running and burpees are full body exercises that when performed with sufficient frequency, intensity and duration, can bring about positive physical adaptations in your cardiovascular system and metabolism that result in better health and physical performance.
Both are great choices as require no special equipment, and you can perform them pretty much anywhere.
The main advantage of burpees over running is that you can do them literally anywhere, including indoors in a small space. You can’t be put off by the weather, traffic, air pollution or agoraphobia… They also work the whole body, including the arms and abdominals to a greater degree than running.
Running can actually get you places. You could run to commute, often saving time and money. You could run through parks and trails, getting some highly beneficial exposure to nature, sun and fresh air. One day you might have to run for your life!
The SAID Principal
To keep your heart healthy, burn fat, and stay in shape, there is no benefit of one over the other.
If you are new to exercise, these general adaptations will bring you improvements in all areas of fitness. Doing burpees will make everything easier – walking and running, going up and down the stairs, cycling around town, playing sports.
The SAID Principle however refers to Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand.
This, as you might guess, describes the fact that the body adapts very specifically to any demands imposed on it…
If you practice running, you’ll get better at running. Do lots of burpees you’ll get better at burpees.
When you want to get better at a particular activity, there is no substitute for specific practice of that movement. There are very specific adaptations that your body will undergo to make you more efficient and effective at that specific activity.
If you want to run well, you have to run often!
Steady State vs HIIT
Another hot topic in the world of fitness training: Steady State vs High Intensity Interval Training.
Is one modality better than the other? Should we do both? Can 4 minutes of HIIT really be comparable to 30 minutes of SSC?
Bang for your buck
Without doubt, minute for minute, High Intensity Interval Training is much more time efficient than steady state cardio.
4 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week would hardly make any measurable difference to your health or fitness.
A weekly 4 minute dose of HIIT on the other hand produces significant improvements to health, physique and athletic performance.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t benefits from doing longer sessions of steady state cardio however.
Reasons to do Steady State Cardio
- It’s fun
The best reason to do longer sessions of cardiovascular exercise is because you enjoy them! Whether it’s going for a run along the beach, cycling through Collserola, playing volleyball with friends, or learning to dance salsa, there are plenty of physical activities that are worth doing for longer than 4 minutes 😉
- It’s useful
You could commute by foot or bicycle, you could learn a martial art to defend yourself and build confidence, you could get fit by digging and maintaining an allotment or volunteering for a charity.
- It burns extra calories
We’d never recommend this as the principal reason for doing exercise (it’s always best just to put the fork down, and step away from the table…), but if you’re doing an activity for one of the two good reasons above, you can also be happy in the knowledge that you’re burning extra calories too.
It’s also worth noting that the SAID Principle also applies to the modality as well as the movement.
If you plan on doing a 10k or a marathon, HIIT style sprints can be a very effective part of your training program.
A couple of sessions of HIIT Sprinting per week can considerably reduce your weekly training schedule.
You should also include a couple of longer training sessions per week if you want to make it to the finish line with a good time.
Thanks Sunil for your question. We hope you find the answer useful! Check out Sunil’s awesome coaching business below and Free Your Flow!