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Improve your speed, endurance and more with workouts that take less than 30 minutes
Have you ever done a killer workout that left you breathless? You know the kind: Short, intense, and marked by the sweat angel you leave on the floor after you collapse.
I gotta say, those are the workouts I love to hate and hate to love. And that’s what high intensity interval running is for me. It packs a tremendous amount of value into a short amount of time. And it hurts – but it hurts so good!
I sat down with Amanda Capritto, a personal trainer and writer here at Garage Gym Reviews, to talk about why we should do these workouts and where to get started. Listen up, then lace up your shoes and get going!
What Is HIIT Running?
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is any workout that includes both periods of intense exercise and short periods of recovery. HIIT workouts can be as short as 4 minutes and upward of 20-30 minutes long.
Benefits of HIIT Running Workouts
HIIT running workouts allow you to run with more intensity over a shorter period of time. Like many forms of exercise, HIIT workouts can help reduce stress and anxiety, but it also provides a number of unique benefits. They are a great way to ease your way into running without the stress of having to make time for long cardio sessions.
Low-intensity steady-state workouts (LISS), such as going out to run 6 miles, can be hard on the body, especially if you haven’t done much in the past. HIIT workouts are actually way more efficient and provide you with many of the same benefits without the time commitment and mental discipline required for a longer run.
Countless studies have found that running intervals can improve aerobic capacity, endurance, exercise tolerance, and your VO2 max, which refers to how much oxygen your body can use as you exercise. The higher the number, the longer you’re able to endure high-intensity exercise, and thus, the fitter you become.
Cardiovascular exercise can improve heart health, improve lung capacity, and lead to increased weight loss, according to Dr. Rachel Eidelman, board certified cardiologist. She states that, “As we get older, heart health and lung capacity become even more critical for disease prevention.” Recent studies show that HIIT training can improve resting blood pressure, metabolic capacity, and heart rate reserve without compromising cardiac function in sedentary aging men.
Improved Anaerobic Capacity
As a bonus, when we do high-intensity training, we are tapping into our anaerobic energy system. Why does this matter? As Amanda Capritto, certified personal trainer and staff writer at Garage Gym Reviews explains, our anaerobic system is used when the body needs energy quickly, like during sprints or heavy weight training. When doing slower workouts, like running a 5K, we can rely on oxygen to generate energy. During anaerobic training, we don’t get as much oxygen and instead have to break down stored glucose for energy sources.
Amanda explains, “When you train your anaerobic system, you teach your muscles to work without oxygen. The more you push, the more you increase your thresholds for anaerobic work.”In the same way, anaerobic exercise is thought to increase the lactic threshold, which is the point where the pain you feel in your muscles forces you to stop. As you increase that threshold, you are able to push yourself harder and/or farther during workouts before failing due to fatigue.
Some other great benefits to HIIT running include:
- Maintain muscle mass:We know progressive overload, pushing the body to its limits, is important to get results and HIIT running will get you there far quicker than steady-state cardio. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you run, running does not build muscle in the same way strength training does, but HIIT running can help maintain the muscle you do have, so you aren’t sabotaging your own progress.
- Does not decrease testosterone:Contrary to popular belief, a study looking at HIIT running found that it can actually lead to a slight increase in free testosterone, making it an appropriate addition to most strength training programs.
- HIIT running can boost performance: Think about it, are you more likely to push yourself harder doing 1-minute sprints or running for 10 minutes straight? Most people can work much harder when they know it’s only for 1 minute, so ultimately you spend more time working at a much higher intensity throughout a workout.
- HIIT exercise is helpful for endurance athletes: A 2016 study found that swapping out two steady-state cardio sessions for HIIT sessions in trained rowers resulted in more significant improvements in a 2000 m timed trial than those who only did steady-state cardio.
How to Get Started
If you are just getting started with HIIT training, it’s best to start with short HIIT workouts. You can add in a HIIT running workout on days that you are not doing heavy strength training, or you can squeeze in a quick, high-intensity session after you lift. Amanda tells us, “You generally want to lift before running, so you aren’t going into your strength workout fatigued, compromising your power and form.”
Tabata workouts are simple and a great place to start if you haven’t done much HIIT running before. To do this, complete eight rounds of 20 seconds of intense work, followed by ten seconds of rest. You may have seen this pattern before with other movements, like squats or burpees, but it is also super effective when paired with sprints. Tabatas make for a great workout finisher or a way to get the blood flowing when you need to break a sweat in a short period of time.Improve Conditioning
If you are a beginner who wants to build running endurance, you can add in longer HIIT running workouts a couple of days a week. Start with a one-minute running interval followed by a one-minute walk, and repeat this for 20-30 minutes. Once this starts to feel easy, you can gradually increase the duration of the running portion and decrease the time spent walking. To be clear, these kinds of workouts are most effective when you push yourself hard during the running intervals, your body should feel like it needs the rest breaks!
Build Leg Endurance
Lastly, if you are an intermediate runner and want to increase your lactic threshold and overall power, treadmill or hill sprints are a great way to accomplish this. Try alternating between incline sprints and walking, aiming to sprint for 20-45 seconds. Once again, these sprints should leave you near breathless, and you will definitely feel this in the legs and glutes.
HIIT At Home
Going out for a run is nice, but in the home gym community, we like to spend time in the beautiful gyms we’ve constructed. So, how can you do this in your garage? A good treadmill is all you need, but you may want to make some extra considerations if you’re going to focus on HIIT. Some treadmills come with the ability to program in intervals or come loaded with programs already. Also, there is a new crop of smart treadmills/treadmills with screens that come with fitness trainers and exercises classes for you to follow.
Not sure what treadmill is best for you? We looked at the best treadmills for a home gym and compared them based on price, features, and type.
Assault Air Runner
If you are a hardcore CrossFitter, you’ve probably used an Assault Air Runner, a treadmill designed for short, intense workouts. This self-propelled, curved, non-motorized treadmill is pricey at around $3,700 but offers an extended running surface, heavy-duty frame, and helpful monitor. It is 100% athlete-powered, so you don’t even have to plug it in. As someone who has tried in the past, it’s hard to run long distances on this thing, so it’s best for short sprints during WODs and interval training.
NordicTrack Commercial 1750
If you’re looking for a standard treadmill that doesn’t feel flimsy, I really like the NordicTrack commercial line, particularly the Commercial 1750. This treadmill is comfortable to run on, has technology that allows you to customize how soft or hard you want the running surface to be, and has the interactive iFit training software built-in. There is an incline and decline option, and if you are following an iFit program, it will automatically adjust it for you. How cool is that? It is reasonably priced at just under $2000, which is around what you can expect to pay for a quality treadmill. Please note that you shouldn’t store this treadmill (or any NordicTrack equipment for that matter) in your garage. The brand will immediately void your warranty if it is.
Bowflex Treadmill 10
Now, if you are looking for a fully interactive experience, treadmills like the BowFlex Treadmill 10 are the real deal. When it comes to HIIT running, sometimes you don’t want to have to think about it, so having an instructor barking commands at you can really help you push it to the next level.
These treadmills are heavy but come with a big screen and comfortable running platform, plus they look pretty sleek in a home gym. Of course, the Peloton is not cheap, and you must pay for a monthly membership to take the classes. They currently have treadmill production on hold, but keep an eye out for the updated model. If you don’t have any cardio equipment at home, you can still do HIIT training with many bodyweights or simple dumbbell movements.
RELATED: Peloton Alternatives
I like doing 40-second intervals of burpees or dumbbell thrusters, with a 20-second rest between intervals. The goal here is to move quickly, get as many reps as possible in the allotted time frame and work up a major sweat. If you absolutely hate cardio, you can still get the benefits of a cardio workout; you just need to lift weight faster.
Heart Rate Monitoring
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), your heart rate during vigorous-intense intervals should be around 77% to 93% of your max heart rate. To estimate max heart rate, the CDC suggests subtracting your age from 220.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to manually take your heart rate while exercising. That’s where devices like fitness trackers come in. You can see in real-time what your heart rate is. While these aren’t always completely accurate, they could help you gauge your intensity as you exercise.
Many treadmills and smart home gym equipment connect with heart rate monitors via Bluetooth, allowing you to view your heart rate on the screen and monitor how quickly your heart rate recovers between intervals. This is important for beginner runners, as it gives you a way to compare your heart rate to perceived exertion.
For example, you may feel like you are running at 50% exertion, but your heart rate may show that you are working at 90%. More experienced runners may be able to estimate heart rate based on how they feel, but can still benefit from heart rate monitors to track progress over time.
Overall, HIIT running workouts are a great addition to your regular strength training routine, especially if you want to build endurance, power and shed some extra weight. Having a good treadmill can make running a much more enjoyable experience, and the iFit programs are an easy way to get started with interval running. But, when you get tired of running, you can always find ways to do HIIT cardio workouts with whatever other equipment you have available.
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