HIIT your running performance goals harder

HIIT your running performance goals harder

High intensity interval training is a simple formula – Sprint, walk, recover and repeat.

Yet, its proven to be so significant to your running progress and health.

Most runners believe their best chance to improve endurance or fitness is to run for an hour. Long-distance efforts are important but aren’t necessarily the best approach when it comes to your training.

What is high intensity interval training?

Interval training alternates between high-intensity fast periods followed by less-intense recovery periods.

High intensity interval training (or HIIT, as most would hear at their gyms), is hot property throughout the fitness world. Most gyms have incorporated this style of training and it has grown to be one of the most popular trends to hit the fitness industry.

Why would I want to HIIT out running?

You’re not alone by asking this question – most runners are unfamiliar with the added benefits of HIIT training or if it is even relevant to running.

The perception throughout the running world is that running more is the answer to becoming a better runner. It’s true but it isn’t necessarily the smartest way to train.

You can get results during the interval

Even the best runners in the world incorporate HITT into their training.

The beauty of interval training is that it has added benefits for beginners, advanced and even the best runners. It helps you run faster, lose weight faster and get into shape faster… And it also doesn’t have to be inside a gym!

There are many forms of interval training that are linked to increasing the endurance of a runner. Studies have proven, adapting sprint interval training improves a runner’s performance, and enhances your general health and well-being.

Why incorporate HIIT into a runners training:

Improves your anerobic capacityFast interval runs maximise stress on both your anaerobic system. The anaerobic systems increase capacity during interval training in many ways such as:

  • Increase lactate tolerance
  • Increase the size of fast twitch muscle fibres
  • Increase resting levels of ATP, Creatine Phosphate, free Creatineand glycogen in the muscles

A higher anaerobic capacity enables an athlete to:

  • Perform at a higher intensity over a specific distance,
  • Maintain a high intensity for a longer period of time, or
  • Maintain either the same or a higher intensity over a further distance.

Performance – Your body will adapt quickly and benefit from the continuous stress formed by interval training. Without new challenges, your body will plateau in its performance and progress.

Studies have proven that fast interval sprints enhance the body’s maximum oxygen absorption, transportation (heart), capacity (lungs), and utilization (cells). Altogether, this dramatically enhances your body’s performance, allowing you to run faster and further for longer.

Faster weight loss – Interval training significantly speeds up weight loss as you are burning more calories than you would on a casual run. This form of training introduces fast twitch muscle fibres, which burn a higher amount of energy – they work explosively and burn 50% more calories in almost equal time.

Afterburn – The fat that your body burns after you have completed your workout. You’ll increase metabolism and burn more energy (calories) for up to 24 hours after interval training, whereas going for a long slow jog burns almost NO calories afterwards.

Time – Maximise your results in half the time. Interval training allows you to incorporate a ton of training into a short amount of time. You are working harder for a short period of time making it more comfortable and manageable in your routine.

As long as you are maintaining the key principal of alternating high-intensity work with recovery, you can perform interval training in many different ways.



Give it a try yourself!

If you are new to interval training, try these workouts in place of your regular run once a week. The goal is to push yourself to reach close to your maximum heart rate during a short sprint, then allow it to fall back down as you slow to a jog. The small window of recovery allows your heart rate to stabilise before increasing it to repeatedly reach its peak.

Tabata sprints

  • 20 seconds maximum effort sprint
  • 10 seconds rest
  • Repeat for 8 rounds

You can control and change the lengths of your sprints, or if you want to increase intensity, implement hills instead of a flat surface.

Short intervals (sprinting intervals):


  • 6 x 100m
  • 6 x 200m
  • 6 x 300m

Allow your recovery to be roughly 3 x the length of your interval. This allows you to maintain a consistent performance.

Middle distance intervals

  • 5 x 600m
  • 4 x 800m
  • 3 x 1000m

Aimed at improving your aerobic capacity and fatigue resistance. Complete each interval at 70% of your maximum speed and finish at a pace that is just outside your comfort zone.

It would be worth purchasing a fitness watch to accurately track your times and runs to monitor progress and ensure you are completing the session with a high intensity.

Want more help?

If you would like to talk to an accredited exercise professional to help maximise your training session, click here.

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We have partnered with Nike Australia Pty Ltd for this article series.

The views expressed in this article, unless otherwise cited, are exclusively those of the author, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA). ESSA is the professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.

Nike had no role in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or research or the writing of this article.