If you’re ready to take your running workouts to the next level, you’ve probably heard that running intervals can help you improve your aerobic capacity, stamina, endurance (exercise endurance), and speed.
And if you’re ready to take your overall fitness to the next level, you probably know that high-intensity interval training, aka HIIT, is one of the most effective ways to achieve it.
A HIIT running workout takes basic intervals up a notch.
Interval training refers to any workout that alternates between periods of exercise and periods of recovery.
HIIT is a type of interval training where you do intense bursts of exercise — about 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate — followed by short periods of recovery.
HIIT Running Workout for Beginners
Ready to give high-intensity interval running a try? This simple workout makes Nick Hilton — Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier and running coach based in Flagstaff, AZ — beginner friendly.
- Warm up with 10 to 15 minutes of easy jogging followed by some dynamic stretching.
- Run for 30 seconds at a high-intensity pace — about 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate.
- Recover for 1 to 2 minutes with an easy jog or brisk walk.
- Continue alternating for a total of 8 to 10 rounds.
- End your workout with 10 to 15 minutes of easy jogging.
How a HIIT Running Workout Can Increase Performance
Adding high intensity intervals to your running workouts can improve your running in many ways.
1. Boost speed and power
According to — running at high-intensity intervals can help you save more time running at a faster pace if you try to run at that pace for as long as possible.
If you can maintain that speed as long as you try to sprint as fast as possible, you’ll probably be out quickly.
But if you run hard for 30 seconds, followed by one to two minutes at a recovery pace, you’ll spend much more time training at your top speed.
This can help your body adapt to the effort more safely and effectively than trying to run at your goal pace for as long as possible.
As you adapt, you can shorten your recovery interval.
“Over time, you’ll increase the amount of time you spend at your 5K pace and decrease the amount of recovery,” Hilton says.
2. Improve running economy (and be faster)
Running economy measures the relationship between oxygen consumption and running speed—in other words, how efficiently you run.
And the better your running economy, the easier your run will be, which can help you maintain a faster pace.
In a 2017 study, recreational runners who performed two HIIT running workouts per week for one month improved their running economy by 7 percent and peak treadmill speed by 5 percent during a 5K running trial.
And in a study comparing highly trained runners with similar power levels and VO2max levels, the best running economy runners outperformed their peers.
3. Improve aerobic fitness
Studies have shown that HIIT workouts can improve aerobic fitness markers.
In a study of moderately trained men, HIIT was more effective at increasing VO2max and stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped from your heart) than doing the same amount of work at a lower intensity.
In other words, HIIT can increase your body’s ability to run longer and harder with a shorter time commitment than traditional steady state cardio exercise.
How to Create a HIIT Running Workout
Building a HIIT workout around running is easy. All you have to do is alternate between sprints — at about 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate — and short periods of active rest (think: jogging).
If you’re new to interval training, Hilton recommends incorporating a HIIT running workout into your routine every week and keeping the work intervals shorter than the recovery period until you feel ready to step it up.
What is the ideal HIIT running speed?
For your HIIT running workout, you want to find a pace that’s challenging enough to get your heart rate up to 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate.
But it shouldn’t so Challenging that you can’t repeat that cycle several times.
You can also measure intensity by rating your perceived level of exertion on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 means you’re sitting on the couch, while 10 means you’re working at your highest maximal effort (think running up a steel hill).
Your HIIT intervals should be between 8 and 9.