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What’s The Best Way To HIIT?

Improve your fitness in no time with these crazy-hard “high-intensity interval-training” workouts designed for runners.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

3 Effective HIIT Workouts

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the most effective ways to work out—period. By incorporating a HIIT session once or twice a week (on top of your normal running), you’ll see your cardiovascular fitness improve dramatically and your athletic capacity increase. A study published in Sports Medicine showed that HIIT was superior to endurance training at improving oxygen capacity during exercise (otherwise known as VO2 max), and there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence indicating that it’s the secret sauce to nailing a PR.

So what is HIIT exactly? Also known as sprint interval training, HIIT workouts alternate between short bursts of intense exercise intended to increase your heart rate and periods of recovery. The intervals can take the form of running, cycling, strength-training moves, rowing, elliptical—you name it. Best of all, you don’t need a lot of time!

The workouts here are all under 20 minutes and designed specifically with runners in mind. You can choose from a running-only workout, a body-weight workout (perfect for traveling!) and a kettlebell workout (warning: you will be sore the next day). Be sure to really push yourself during each interval and then fully recover to be able to go as hard as you can again.

Here we offer three options to get your heart rate pumping and reap the benefits of HIIT. Before doing the following workouts, perform a 10-minute warm-up, including light jogging or fast walking to increasing your body temperature and a few dynamic stretches to improve range of motion.

Tip: While these workouts use time as a measurement for your exercise and rest periods, using a heart-rate monitor (HRM) is even more effective. If you have access to an HRM, perform the “sprint” or kettlebell/active intervals until your heart rate is 85 percent of your max and rest until it drops to 65 percent of your max. The more in shape you are, the longer it will take to achieve 85 percent and the shorter you will need to rest. This will guarantee you are getting the absolute most effective HIIT workout you can.


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Workout #1: Speed Up

This running workout may look easy on paper, but you will be shocked at how difficult it is! If you suffer from knee pain, perform the sprint intervals up a hill (or on a treadmill at a 7 percent incline) to reduce joint stress.

Circuit 1:

  • 45 seconds sprinting (push as hard as you can)
  • 45 seconds walking
  • Repeat above five times.

Circuit 2:

  • 30 seconds sprinting
  • 60 seconds walking
  • Repeat above four times.

Circuit 3:

  • 15 seconds sprinting
  • 75 seconds walking
  • Repeat above three times.


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Workout #2: Body Weight Challenge

This sweat session combines running and strength-training exercises for a head-to-toe workout. Because it requires no weights and little space, it’s great to do while traveling or at home if you’re crunched for time. You can perform the sprints on a treadmill, outdoors or up a flight of stairs.

Perform the following one after the other.

  • 30 seconds sprinting
  • 60 seconds walking
  • 30 seconds squats
  • 60 seconds walking
  • 30 seconds sprinting
  • 60 seconds walking
  • 30 seconds mountain climbers
  • 60 seconds walking
  • 30 seconds sprinting
  • 60 seconds walking
  • 30 seconds alternating lateral lunges
  • 2 minutes walking
  • Repeat from the top one more time.


Stand tall with feet wider than shoulder-width, toes pointing slightly out and hands behind your head. Think about pulling your hips backward and down as you lower into a squat, while keeping your heels planted on the ground and your chest lifted. As you stand back up, engage your glutes and return to the start position.

Mountain Climbers:

  1. Start in a pushup position with your hands gripping the floor and your head, upper back, hips and ankles in a straight line. Bring your right knee toward your chest, keeping your right foot close to the ground.
  2. Return the right leg and repeat on the left leg. Alternate back and forth as quickly as possible while maintaining your body position.

Alternating Lateral Lunges:

  1. Take a wide step out with your right leg. Bending at the hip, reach for your right foot with your left hand. Keep your chest up and back in a neutral, flat position.
  2. Drive off of your right leg to come to a standing position.
  3. Repeat on the left leg.


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Workout #3: Kettlebell Killer

Thanks to an easy-to-grip handle and an extended center of mass, kettlebells are one of the best weighted tools to use while performing cardio exercise. This workout will get your heart rate sky-high. If you don’t have a kettlebell handy, you can use a dumbbell.

Perform the following one after the other.

  • 30 seconds kettlebell squat thrusts
  • 60 seconds marching recovery
  • 30 seconds power step-ups
  • 60 seconds marching recovery
  • 30 seconds kettlebell swings
  • 60 seconds marching recovery
  • Repeat four times.

Kettlebell Squat Thrusts:

  1. Hold a kettlebell with both hands, feet wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Lower into a squat, pulling your hips back and down.
  3. As you stand up, use the momentum to drive the kettlebell overhead while pushing your hips forward and up. Return to the start position and repeat.

Power Step-Ups:

  1. Place one foot on a small step. Put your weight on that foot and
  2. drive yourself up with a jump, switching legs in mid-air and
  3. landing with the opposite foot on the step. Repeat.

Kettlebell Swings

Start by holding a kettlebell in front of you with both hands, feet wider than shoulder-

  1. Bend your hips back, and let the kettlebell drop between your legs.
  2. Straighten your legs, and use the snap of your hips to drive the kettlebell out in front of you, keeping your arms straight until the weight is at eye level. As it swings back through your legs, be sure to bend from the hips. Repeat.


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