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. Also, it’s inexpensive and can be enjoyed anywhere without much equipment or training — it’s 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 or two to your weekly workout routine. In just 10-15 minutes, you’ll sweat and burn calories while becoming a stronger runner and a better overall athlete.

Read on to learn about high-intensity interval training and how it can improve your running. Plus, we’ve got a couple of fun HIIT workouts for runners specifically.

What’s high-intensity interval training?

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of exercise that alternates between intense intervals of movement and short periods of rest. The intervals are typically 20 to 60 seconds of work and 10 to 30 seconds of rest. While the rest period is short, it’s just enough to prepare for the next interval of work.

People — especially the 8fit community — 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 24-48 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 including your running speed and distance.

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 were specifically picked to build the core muscles, as well as stress the muscles related to breathing. After the six 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.

So, 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

Not convinced that HIIT is for you? Here are five more reasons to give it a try, adding it as a supplement to your regular running routine.

1. Prevent overuse injuries

Variety is key. Making sure your weekly workout routine is varied ensures 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. During runs, you are strictly moving forward and backward. HIIT training works all planes of motion, so you’ll 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’re airborne much of the time during each step. Practicing moves that involve plyometrics or jumping, can drastically increase your explosiveness and speed. Try moves like lunge jumps, squat jumps, and jumping jacks to 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 movements and core work can make you a stronger, more well-rounded runner. 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

If it’s raining or too cold, swap your run for a HIIT workout inside. All you need is a small space (enough for your to lay down and jump) to perform a quick HIIT workout that’ll help your running.

Pro tip:
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 help tone your body. Look at a marathon runner’s body compared to a sprinter’s body. The sprinter is muscular, while the marathoner is typically slim. Sprinters do short explosive drills and do strength exercises to build muscle definition. Marathoners tend to do long distance runs that eat away muscle. For balance, mix HIIT training with short runs, and you can benefit from both.

HIIT workouts for runners

At-home HIIT for runners

To supplement your outdoor or treadmill running, spend some time doing core, leg and hip strengthening HIIT workouts. This one combines two movements, mountain climbers and squats. This particular HIIT method we’ll use here is called Tabata. Tabata is eight rounds of 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest.

Start with a mountain climber Tabata. Here’s how:

  • 20 seconds of mountain climbers
  • 10 seconds of rest
  • Repeat 8 times

 

 

After eight rounds of mountain climber, rest for one minute. The second Tabata features squats:

  • 20 seconds of squats
  • 10 seconds of rest
  • Repeat 8 times

 

HIIT running session

HIIT workouts aren’t reserved for the indoors or strength exercises. If you want to improve your speed and power, you can also do a HIIT running workout in the form of sprints. Another fun option is doing intervals of strength exercises and jogging during your rest periods. Here are two examples of HIIT running routines:

  1. Sprint for a certain amount of time (20-30 seconds) or a certain distance around (the 1/8-mile or 200-meter straight-away), then walk for 10-20 seconds to recover. Repeat 8+ times.
  2. Do a bodyweight exercise (squats, jump squats, mountain climbers, lunges) for 20-30 seconds, then jog for 20-30 seconds or half the track. Repeat 8+ times for each exercise.

The key to a good HIIT workout

The most effective HIIT workouts are the ones where you give 100% of your effort. Go all-out for the entire 20 seconds of each Tabata round to reap the full benefit of HIIT. Yes, your heart will be pounding and, yes, you will want to stop — but push through those 20 seconds and enjoy 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, we recommend you 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.

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

With HIIT, you’re 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. Download the 8fit app for endless HIIT workouts.