As a time-poor mom of two kids, squeezing exercise into my already rammed routine can sometimes be tough. So I must have been severely sleep-deprived and delirious when I agreed to do a 30 day interval running on my treadmill, but believe it or not, I’m so glad I said yes.
I’ve always been a big fan of HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, because it’s fast and furious and easy to fit in when you don’t have much time. If you're new to the game, interval workouts generally combine short bursts of intense exercise followed by periods of rest or ‘active recovery’ (lower intensity moves).
For this month-long challenge, I followed a program of 30 minutes a day of interval running on my treadmill, which worked for me as I can’t often get out for a run because of childcare.
My daily training plan: after five minutes of walking to warm up, I ran at medium intensity for 3 minutes and then sprinted for 30 seconds and repeated that cycle for 30 minutes in total. Then as I got fitter, I shortened the active recovery, or ‘rest’ time, running to 2 minutes, and sprinting for 1 minute. I ended each session with a slow 3-minute walk to cool down, and did some stretching.
The benefits of interval training, including interval running, are pretty well documented: increased heart health and aerobic fitness, improved endurance and energy levels, as well as lower blood pressure and weight loss.
But for me, it’s the mental health benefits of interval running that I love and that’s why I took on this challenge. I know from experience that it makes me less anxious and stressed, boosts my mood, and helps me sleep better, and as any parent will know (especially those with really young children) that is worth more than gold.
Tempted to try this challenge yourself? Check out our guide to the best treadmills first, and keep reading to find out how I got on.
1. I had more energy
As well as looking after my two young daughters, I work 9-5 and I’m doing a Personal Trainer diploma in my spare time, so I am next-level tired pretty much all of the time, and energy is something that is often seriously lacking in my life.
So you’d expect doing a grueling fitness challenge like 30 days of interval running would just about finish me off, but bizarrely I had more energy than usual.
Here’s the thing: the more you exercise aerobically, the more mitochondria (the powerhouses of the cell) the body makes to produce energy to meet your needs. So basically the more energy you use, the more your body will have available.
2. I was less stressed (and a more patient mom)
Because I was exercising so much, I felt like I was literally running off a lot of the stress that I would usually keep pent up (although the muscle soreness or DOMS was pretty special at the beginning).
As you’d imagine, I was feeling way less stressed than usual so I was a much nicer and more patient mom to my kids. Sure, they still pushed the boundaries now and then, but I found I was better able to control my reaction and behavior and let things go more.
It’s no surprise, really. A study by the American Psychological Association found that regular aerobic exercise like interval running could decrease tension and stabilize and lift your mood. This is because when we exercise, our brain produces those lovely happy hormones endorphins, which make us feel good.
3. I improved my endurance – and lost weight
High-intensity workouts like interval training on a treadmill are a great way to build up endurance because you’re keeping your body guessing and working a variety of muscles all at the same time. And once I got used to the training program, I upped the intensity to ensure ‘progressive overload’ – a fitness principle where you have to gradually increase the intensity of the exercise to keep your muscles challenged.
Increased endurance made daily activities easier too, and I noticed that walking upstairs, running for the bus and even carrying groceries was noticeably easier.
I didn’t go into this challenge trying to lose weight, but it was definitely a nice perk to lose a few pounds! Interval training depletes the oxygen available to the muscles, forcing the body to burn fat to obtain energy instead. Not only that, the body is operating at an oxygen debt and will continue to torch calories even post-workout – a process called the After Burn Effect.
For more challenge stories like this one, find out what happened when we walked for 90 minutes every morning for a month.
Get the Fit&Well Newsletter
Start your week with achievable workout ideas, health tips and wellbeing advice in your inbox.
Maddy Biddulph is a freelance journalist specializing in fitness, health and wellbeing content. With 25 years in consumer media, she has worked as a writer and editor for some of the bestselling newspapers, magazines and websites in the US and UK.
She is also a qualified L3 personal trainer and weight loss advisor, and helps women over 40 navigate menopause by improving their physical and mental strength. At Maddy Biddulph Personal Training, she runs one-to-one and small group training for menopausal women who want to get fit to ease symptoms and feel like themselves again.
I'm adding these three glute exercises into my routine to relieve back pain. Here's how they work
Workout Desk-job workers like me need to try this workout
By Alice Porter Published
Low on workout motivation? A trainer shares her top tips for getting started, and a five-move dumbbell workout to kick things off
Workout Stop skipping workouts with this trainer’s accessible five-move session you can do from home
By Harry Bullmore Published
I tried a mindful running app for a month, and it really helped boost my confidence
Mindfulness I signed up to an ultramarathon and wanted to see if meditative runs could improve my performance
By Lily Canter Published
I gave up social media for a month and here’s what it did for my wellbeing
Mindfulness Deleting all social media apps made me more present but I missed sourcing workouts and healthy recipes to try out
By Jessica Downey Published
Here’s what running a 5k on my lunch break for a week did to my fitness
Fitness I started running on my lunch breaks and it completely changed my motivation toward fitness for the better
By Jessica Downey Published
'I trained like a professional triathlete for a week and it was brutal'
Fitness Find out how our writer fared when she followed pro triathlete Laura Siddall's triathlon training plan for seven days
By Lucy Gornall Last updated
‘How I cured my running anxiety attacks – and you can too’
Mental health Mid-run anxiety attacks threatened to knock our writer’s fitness routine off-track, forcing her to take positive action
By Sarah Finley Published
‘I tried smart insoles and they changed the way I run'
Fitness How Nurvv Run Insoles helped our writer become a better runner
By Sarah Finley Published