Become a Better Runner with High-Intensity Interval Training

There are many reasons to love running. It gets the heart rate up, builds strong bones, and can be a great way to lose weight. It is inexpensive, and can be enjoyed anywhere without much equipment or training. It is no wonder that many people have turned to running as their go-to exercise.

Whether you run casually or competitively, becoming a better runner doesn’t begin and end with running. At 8fit, we are big fans of adding a short high-intensity workout to your running habits. In just 10-15 minutes, you can often double the number of calories you burn while becoming a stronger runner and a better overall athlete.

Here’s what you need to know about high-intensity interval training and how it can improve your running, as well as make you a better overall athlete.

What’s High-Intensity Interval Training?

High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a form of exercise that alternates between intense movements to give you a full-body workout. It spaces out the movements with short periods of rest, which give you just enough rest to keep on going.

People love HIIT for several reasons:

  • Benefit from the after-burn effect. After an intense HIIT workout, your body will burn fuel like crazy for the next 24 hours.
  • Workout anywhere without equipment. Similar to running, HIIT workouts can be done anywhere without any equipment.
  • It’s fast! HIIT workouts can be effective in just 10 minutes.
  • Achieve new levels. Your strength and endurance will reach new highs, allowing you to up the intensity of any workout.

Combining HIIT with running

In 2014, researchers at the Hong Kong Baptist University studied the effects of high-intensity workouts on the running performance of 16 people.

For 6 weeks, runners performed high-intensity workouts 3-4 times a week. The exercises mimic the exercises in HIIT workouts, and were specifically picked to build the core muscles, as well as stress the muscles related to breathing. After the 6 weeks, runners were put through a 1-hour treadmill performance test. Runners that performed the high-intensity training tested with higher core strength, increased endurance, and improved running performance.

If you’ve been training to get faster, or beat your current personal record, adding HIIT training to your weekly workouts could be the key to getting you there.

5 more reasons for you to HIIT and run

1. Prevent overuse injuries

It’s commonly known that you should vary your workouts to ensure that you hit all muscle groups and avoid overuse injuries. With running, HIIT training can help you work more muscle groups and strengthen weak areas to help improve your running form. HIIT can be extremely beneficial to runners due to its strengthening and explosive aspects. In running, you are strictly moving forward and backward. HIIT training works all planes of motion, so you will be performing lateral movements and rotational exercises to work and strengthen the whole body.

2. Increase explosiveness and speed

When you run, your stride is what propels you forward. You are airborne much of the time during each step. Practicing moves that involve plyometrics, or jumping, can drastically increase your explosiveness and speed. Lunge jumps, squat jumps and jumping jacks all help build speed and strength.

3. Build a balanced body

HIIT training also helps balance your body. As a runner, you work your legs a lot, but your upper body is often neglected or forgotten altogether. Performing a HIIT workout involving upper body moves and core work can make you a stronger, more well rounded person. Core strength and strong arms will help you maintain good running form and stay in alignment during longer training runs.

4. Easy to do with space or weather constraints

Space or weather constraints can also play into performing a HIIT workout instead of going for a run. At some point in time, you won’t be able to squeeze in a run. Maybe the weather is bad, or it’s unsafe to run outside. In these situations, you just need a small space to perform a quick HIIT workout with similar, if not better, results. Focus on exercises for glute, core and hip stability to enhance your running the next time you hit the trail or pavement.

5. Get a sculpted body

Aerobic training contributes to fat loss, but also is a factor in muscle loss. HIIT training will build muscle and give a more sculpted look. Look at a marathon runner’s body compared to a sprinter’s body. The sprinter is muscular, while the marathoner is extremely slim. Sprinters do short explosive drills, much the same as HIIT training and build muscle definition. Marathoners tend to do long distance runs that eat away muscle and have very slim frames with little definition. For balance, mix HIIT training with short runs and you can benefit from both.

A sample HIIT workout

Round 1: Mountain climbers

Become a Better Runner with High-Intensity Interval Training
  • 20 seconds of mountain climbers.
  • 10 seconds of rest.
  • Repeat 8 times.

Rest: Take a one minute break

Round 2: Squats

Become a Better Runner with High-Intensity Interval Training
  • 20 seconds of squats.
  • 10 seconds of rest.
  • Repeat 8 times.


You’ve just completed a Tabata workout, a form of HIIT that alternates between periods of intense exercise and rest.

The best part? In 12 minutes, you’ve burned 336 calories.

The key to a good HIIT workout

The key to a good HIIT workout is to truly give 100% effort. You need to be going all out for the entire 20 seconds to reap the full benefit. Yes, your heart will be pounding. Yes, you will want to stop. But push through those 20 seconds and look forward to those 10 seconds of rest.

The good news is that a HIIT workout generally only last 10-20 minutes. Push hard for the entire time, gain the benefits, and then move on with your day.

When to perform a HIIT workout

As a runner, you should do a HIIT workout two times a week.

Beginners should start by doing running and HIIT on different days. This allows you to keep proper form and alignment during each workout without being too exhausted. Intermediate runners can do one HIIT workout after an easier run, and the second HIIT workout on a separate day. Advanced runners can end any run with a short HIIT session. Just treat it as an exercise in battling through fatigue!

See you on race day!

Performing a HIIT session right after you run simulates the sprinting hard at the end of a training run or race.

You are essentially training your body to fight through fatigue and remain strong and explosive. If you are a runner, give it a try. Over time, you should see drastic improvements in your endurance, speed, and overall strength.