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Run Faster With These HIIT Workouts

4 MIN READ • 13th April 2017

Trying to be a better runner by churning out more miles? High-mileage training isn’t your only option. You can get fast pretty quickly with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

It’s clear that High Intensity Interval Training isn’t going anywhere. But what springs to mind when you think of high intensity sessions? Bodyweight circuits with minimal rest? Interval classes at the gym? HIIT, which involves short bursts of activity followed by a small period of rest, has made such a big impression on the fitness world that everyone, from personal trainers to those at branded workout companies, has started staging classes based on its principles. But here’s the thing – you don’t need kit, instruction or workout buddies to do a HIIT session; outdoor athletes have been doing HIIT on their own for yonks!

What is HIIT?

At its very basic level, HIIT is interval training. It’s the best method athletes have for getting the most out of their bodies in a minimal amount of time. It’s something that a lot of successful runners have used to improve their endurance speed – Emil Zapotek is said to have won the 1952 Olympic marathon on interval training alone. In recent years, many scientists have dedicated their time to studying HIIT. How short can the workouts be? One minute, in case you’re wondering. How hard must the intensity of the intervals feel? Really hard, actually – we’re talking about an all-out pace.

In fact, one of the pioneering interval training studies – the 1996 study by Japanese physiologist Izumi Tabata (which forms the basis of Tabata training today) – had subjects sprint at an intensity similar to 170 percent of VO2 max! As a good rule of thumb, the shorter the interval, the harder you must work. Still, get the intensity and format right (and don’t try to perform HIIT workouts every day) and you could reap a lot of rewards, including building a greater cardiovascular engine, improving your stride efficiency and even decreasing your risk of nasty diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

Who is it for?

“It’s easy to get into the habit of sticking with a high-mileage plan and feel nervous about trying HIIT or taking an extra rest day,” says Kim Ingleby, ( mind and body coach . “High-mileage training suits some people but it leaves many without the time to stretch, refuel and recover.” And that’s where short-duration HIIT training comes in.

Not only does it provide the time to factor in the other elements of training that matter, but HIIT is also suitable for anyone. Why? Because what equates to a superfast pace will depend on your unique ability, which will help to keep the session at the right intensity for your level. Be warned, however – running as fast as you can is tough on the body. It can even take more out of you than high-mileage training! You’ll likely need to factor in an extra rest day or a gentle ‘recovery’ run. Don’t overdo it at first – begin with just one HIIT session a week. Always avoid completing two HIIT workouts in a row by following a hard training day with an easy training day. Give these sessions a go…


Several years ago, the University of Copenhagan uncovered an interval training method that could blitz fat and boost speed. It’s called the 10-20-30 concept. The scientists got runners to complete a 1,500m and 5K time trial before putting them on a seven-week 10-20-30 programme. Runners improved their 1,500m performance by 23 seconds and 5K speed by one minute. Here’s how to do it:

  • Warm-up: Run gently
  • Interval: Do five one-minute intervals divided into 30, 20 and 10 seconds of running at a low, moderate and maximum pace.
  • Rest: Recover for two minutes
  • Repeat: Complete three to four intervals


Coach Kim Ingleby swears by a simple pyramid run, in which you gradually increase the amount of time spent sprinting and then decrease it again. “It adds variety while helping to build speed and endurance,” explains Kim. “Do a pyramid run once every fortnight to really notice a difference.” Here’s how to do it:

  • Warm-up: Run gently for 10 minutes
  • Interval: Sprint for 20 seconds; jog back to the start
  • Interval: Sprint for 40 seconds; jog back to the start
  • Interval: Sprint for 60 seconds; jog back to the start
  • Interval: Sprint for 90 seconds; jog back to the start
  • Interval: Sprint for 60 seconds; jog back to the start
  • Interval: Sprint for 40 seconds; jog back to the start
  • Interval: Sprint for 20 seconds; jog back to the start
  • Rest: Recover for three minutes
  • Repeat: Complete one to two rounds

Kenyan hills

There’s a reason why Kenyans are so fast – they love hill training (well, that’s one of the reasons). When you’re short on time, hill running is a fantastic way to build strength, burn fat and boost fitness. It’s more intense than running on a flat surface, and the University of Georgia even found that it uses nine percent more muscle per stride than running on non-hilly terrain. Try the below session:

  • Warm-up: Run gently to a nearby hill that takes 30-60 seconds to race up
  • Interval: Run up the hill as fast as you can
  • Recover: Don’t stop at the top; immediately turn around and jog down the hill
  • Repeat: Complete 10 to 15 intervals (aim for 20 if you can!)

HIIT strength

Don’t resign yourself to only doing HIIT runs. Strength training is also great for running speed, not to mention warding off injuries. “It improves muscular endurance, challenges the body in a different way, increases core strength and reduces the risk of injury,” says Kim. Try her method for runners below:

  • Warm-up: Run gently for 10 minutes
  • Interval: 40 seconds of mountain climber; 20-second rest x 4
  • Rest Recover for one minute
  • Interval: 40 seconds of burpees with press-ups; 20-second rest x 4
  • Rest: Recover for one minute
  • Interval: 40 seconds of side shuttle runs; 20-second rest x 4
  • Rest: Recover for one minute
  • Interval: 40 seconds of squat jumps; 20-second rest x 4
  • Rest: Recover for one minute
  • Interval: 40 seconds of up-down planks; 20-second rest x 4
  • Cool down: Jog gently for five minutes

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