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HIIT Running Workout | High Intensity Interval Training

A woman completing a hiit running workout.

HIIT running workouts are a great way to cram a lot of cardio into a short space of time. Making them perfect for those that consider CV a chore. In as few as 10-minutes, a HIIT running workout will stimulate your aerobic system while also burning some serious calories. And, as I discuss below, HIIT running delivers many more health and fitness benefits.

The three HIIT running workouts below have been designed to improve aerobic fitness and develop stamina in the leg muscles. The workouts can be completed outside or on an indoor treadmill. To ensure that fitness levels and abilities are catered for, there is a HIIT running workout for beginners, intermediates, and advanced trainers.

Fitness benefits of HIIT running

In the BBC documentary Truth About, an exploration of the various ways exercise promotes health and well-being, researchers investigated the fitness benefits of high-intensity interval training. What they found was quite surprising. After just 5-minutes of 20-second HIITs, the physiological responses were almost equal to 30-minutes of continuous exercise.

The study showed that workout out at high intensities for comparatively short periods promotes fitness gains. This finding contradicts the age-old assumption that you have to sweat and toil for hours before you reap the rewards. It seems that physical development is not necessarily about quantity but more about quality.

HIIT running health benefits

The study outlined above uncovered another positive of HIIT. As well as investigating the immediate effects of HIIT, the research team also assessed the post-training outcomes. What they found was that, after a short HIIT session, the body continued to metabolise fat at a high than normal rate for 20-minutes.

This wouldn’t have come as a surprise if the workout consisted of a 5-mile run or 10-thousand-metre row. However, these positive outcomes occurred after six to ten 20-second high-intensity intervals, which equates to less than 6-minutes of exercises.

It was these health and fitness outcomes that led researchers to conclude that HIIT is one of the most effective forms of physical exercise.

More health and fitness benefits of HIIT running

  • Improves aerobic fitness

  • Strengthens the muscles of the cardio-respiratory system – specifically the cardiac muscle and diaphragm

  • Burns fat at a higher rate than conventional continuous training workouts

  • Is a more effective way of developing cardio capacity

  • Increases stamina in the muscles of the legs – calves, hamstrings, quads, and glutes

  • Has been shown to boost immune function

  • Makes for demanding yet rewarding training

HIIT running methodology

It would be an understatement to say that there are hundreds of ways to approach a HIIT workout. The number of different interval-to-rest combinations is vast. This is compounded by the range of layouts that we can structure our HIIT workouts around.

Below, I’ve briefly outlined three layout options that you could apply to your HIIT workouts.

HIIT formula 1: Set interval time for distance

The first HIIT formula is ideal for those that revel in physical competition. It can be completed individually or, better still, with a partner. Here’s how it works.

First, decide on the interval duration. Lengthy intervals are best – between 1- to 5-minutes. Second, establish a base time on your first interval. It’s wise to hold back a little.

Now, for every proceeding interval, your objective is to advance on your previous distance. Remember, the interval length remains the same. An example of formula 1 looks like this:

Interval 1) 2-minutes: ergo rowing = 500-metres
Interval 2) 2-minutes: ergo rowing = 550-metres
Interval 3) 2-minutes: ergo rowing = 600-metres

HIIT formula 2: Ascending/descending time ladder

For formula 2 you will either be climbing up or climbing down an interval ladder. Let’s say that you decide to climb up the ladder, how might you go about this?

The first rung should be the shortest interval length. Every rung afterward marginally increases. Of course, this means that each successive interval gets progressively harder than its predecessor – especially so if you maintain the same intensity. An example of formula 2:

Interval 1) 10-seconds interval followed by 10-seconds rest
Interval 2) 20-seconds interval followed by 20-seconds rest
Interval 3) 30-seconds interval followed by 10-seconds rest

Of course, you don’t have to use these times. Instead, you could increase the interval increments by 5-seconds. By doing so the increase is not as noticeable and you’ll get through more intervals before fatigue sets in.

HIIT formula 3: Ascending/descending intensity ladder

In many respects, formula 3 is very similar to formula 2. The slight difference is that you will climb either up or down an intensity ladder. That is, the intensity of each interval gets progressively harder or easier depending on which way along the ladder you plan to climb.

Personally, I prefer to ascend the ladder because the initial low-intensity intervals serve as an extended warm-up. Also, starting at a lower intensity enables you to prepare mentally for the physically demanding latter intervals.

The one limitation of formula 3 is being able to judge your intensities accurately. This limitation is more of a concern for beginner trainers. If you start off too fast, you’ll reach the top of the ladder too quickly. Furthermore, if your intensity increments are sporadic, your climb up the ladder won’t be smooth and seamless.

One simple way to avoid this problem is by using the speed on an indoor treadmill as a marker of intensity. In this HIIT Running video, I apply formula 3. Starting at 19kph, I climb to 22.9kph increasing each interval by 0.2kph. For every kilometre I complete five individual intervals. In total, I complete 19 intervals which take around three and a half minutes.

How to do this HIIT running workout

Ensure to warm up before tackling the HIIT running workout. The warm-up phase is by far the most important aspect of any HIIT session. Because you’ll be starting the workout at a high intensity, the muscles and aerobic system need to be prepared. Failure to warm up will increase injury risk. A workout-specific warm-up has been provided below.

Related: Need a proper Running Warm Up?

After a progressive, 10-minute warm-up, select the level most appropriate to your fitness. Then, when you’re ready, progress through the session plan below.

HIIT formula 1 has been applied to this workout. Grouped in sections of three, the interval time increases with each section. The objective is to cover the most distance possible. You have three attempts to do this.

HIIT running workout key points

  • Complete the full warm-up before starting the HIIT workout.

  • Select the level commensurate with your current fitness.

  • Progress through the four HIIT sections aiming to achieve the best distance possible.

  • Though it has not been stipulated, take a one-minute break between each section.

Running warm up
  • 2-minutes walking

  • 3-minutes jogging

  • 1-minute interval @ 50% max effort – 10-seconds rest

  • 50-seconds interval @ 60% max effort – 10-seconds rest

  • 40-seconds interval @ 70% max effort – 10-seconds rest

  • 30-seconds interval @ 80% max effort – 10-seconds rest

  • 20-seconds interval @ 90% max effort – 10-seconds rest

  • 10-seconds interval @ 100% max effort – 10-seconds rest

  • 2-minutes jogging

A table showing a hiit running workout.

HIIT running workout hints and tips

The rest periods should serve as a guide only. Take more time between intervals if you feel that you need more rest. However, ensure that the rest does not exceed the interval length.

To help keep yourself on track, consider using the session plan provided. Also, you could make a note of each interval distance. This could be used as a benchmark to compete against in the future.


Enjoyed this HIIT running workout

Get your hands on 70 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 2.

This hiit running workout concludes with the Hungry4Fitness book of circuits and workouts volume 2. This image shows the Hungry4Fitness book of circuits and workouts volume two. Inside the image it identifies the key features of the book which include: Over 70 fully customisable circuits and workouts suitable for all levels of fitness and ability; 4-Week Functional Fitness Training Programme; How to create your own circuits and workouts including essential training principles; Key exercise explanations and tutorials; A complete guide to fitness testing; The 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge; CrossFit-style training sessions including EMOM, AMRAP, and HIIT workouts; An illustrated, step-by-step guide to stretching.


Related: Try this HIIT Circuit


In this text box it says: As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance! Blog Author: Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.

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