High Intensity Interval Training Workouts For Runners

High intensity interval training (HIIT) has become increasingly popular in fitness circles in recent years.

It challenges your strength, your muscular endurance and your cardiovascular endurance, which also makes it ideal for runners training for races (and generally, for the sake of good overall fitness!)

Follow these guidelines to add high intensity runs to your training plan and reap the results.

Is Your Workout High Intensity?

The simplest, cheapest and most effective way of rating your workout or run is by using a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the equivalent of simply standing up from the couch and 10 being your absolute maximum, lung-bursting, muscle-melting best.

Increase the intensity within this range to maximise your HIIT workout and get the most from it. If your HIIT workout is not up in the 9/10 range, then it is simply a light cardio workout. It is recommended to do this with friends to really push yourself!

A more sophisticated method to track the intensity of your workout is to purchase a heart rate monitor to strap around your chest, or perhaps use the almost-as-effective monitor available on some high-end smart phones.

To ensure that you are working at your highest intensity, use heart rates (beats per minute/bpm) as your basis and work at 85% to 100% of your maximum heart rate according to your age.

For example, as a twenty-year-old you want to get your heart beating at between 170 to 200 bpm (that’s a lot!), but this figure will taper off as age increases.

Ways To Intensify Runs

Your high intensity running session will inevitably involve sprints.

interval training running

Try this simplest of all workouts for size:

#1 Your basic high intensity run


10 minutes of gentle jogging, mixed in with some larger movements such as high knees and heel flicks to stretch out the leg muscles, and rotate your arms to get your upper body suppled up.


Mark your preferred sprinting distance of anywhere between 30 and 100 metres.

Psyche yourself up, and go all-out over that distance. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat. Do this 10-15 times.

Cool down:

Perform dynamic stretches, especially for your legs, to make sure you don’t ache the next day!


After each sprint, walk back to your starting line before sprinting off again. This tapering off can help your recovery as well.

How To Add Extra Intensity?

There is almost an infinite number of things you can add to your high intensity running session to give it a bit of extra oomph. The most obvious and the most specific for running training is to find a good hill and sprint up it.

You could make this structured and sprint for 50 metres before returning to your starting point, or you could find a good-sized hill which takes about 5 minutes to run up, depending on your goals and the distance you are looking to race.

#2 Bodyweight HIIT and Sprint, Example 1

Besides adding an incline to your run, try these body-weight exercises to get your blood pumping before your sprints.

Warm-up |

5 – 10 minutes of light jogging, dynamic movements with high knees and heel flicks.

Exercise Reps
Squat jumps 20
Scissor jump lunges 30 per leg
Burpees 20
Hand-to-chest push-ups 10
Mountain climbers 40 per side
Tuck jumps 20
100 metre sprints 7

Repeat this circuit at least once, taking 30 seconds rest between each exercise and 2 minutes rest after each circuit if you wish to take it from the top.

#3 Bodyweight HIIT and Sprint, Example 2

Warm-up |

5 – 10 minutes of light jogging, dynamic movements with high knees and heel flicks.

Exercise Time Rest
Jumping jacks 30 secs 15 secs
Squats 30 secs 15 secs
Burpees 30 secs 15 secs
Mountain climbers 30 secs 15 secs
Push-ups 30 secs 15 secs
Tuck jumps 30 secs 15 secs
Sprint x 5 20 secs 15 secs

These bodyweight workouts added into your sprint will provide you with a better-rounded form of fitness, and help your body to fight injuries which can occur as a result of a lot of running.

? As a bonus, you can add in a 1 – 2 minute plank at the end of each session.

This will help to stabilise your core and also aid your muscular endurance.

Things to remember

The number of exercises and the order in which you do them are almost limitless, but there are a few fundamentals which you should keep in mind:


This is the key to getting the most out of these workouts. If you don’t feel like jelly afterwards, you didn’t do it right!


Your core strength and stability are immensely important while running, and these bodyweight workouts will really fire up your core strength, and added to a sprint session are a sure way to improvement! Make sure that the bodyweight exercises you choose reflect this.

Take home message

If you are running short on time or need to ramp up the intensity of your running routine, then HIIT sprints and bodyweight workouts are an ideal start.

They will improve your strength, core stability and train your cardiovascular abilities without losing muscle! 



Writer and expert

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