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 (opens in new tab) (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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab).
For more challenge stories like this one, find out what happened when we walked for 90 minutes every morning for a month.
Maddy is a freelance journalist and Level 3 personal trainer specializing in fitness, health and wellbeing content. She has been a writer and editor for 22 years, and has worked for some of the UK's bestselling newspapers and women’s magazines, including Marie Claire, The Sunday Times and Closer. She also manages Fit&Well's Instagram account.
Maddy loves HIIT training and can often be found running on her treadmill or working out while her two young daughters do matching burpees or star jumps. As a massive foodie, she loves cooking and trying out new healthy recipes (especially ones with hidden vegetables so the kids eat them). She makes a mean margarita and has twice won awards in previous staff jobs as the “office feeder”.
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