How HIIT Workouts Can Benefit Runners

HIIT can take your training and fitness to the next level if you’re a runner. Here’s how the popular exercise technique benefits you.

It’s no secret why High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts have dominated the fitness landscape over the past few years. The unbeatable combination of tangible results, time efficiency, lifestyle flexibility and health benefits have launched HIIT to become one of the leading exercise options on the market.

Whether you’re into jogging casually, training for a marathon or even competing for a living, becoming a better runner does not begin and end with running. While HIIT is a fantastic option to improve your overall fitness, it’s also the perfect workout for runners who are looking to push their fitness to the next level.

As endurance athletes, you probably already run a lot, of course. Even if you’re already fit, however, you can still reap measurable benefits from adding HIIT to workout routine. Here are a few reasons why runners should incorporate HIIT workouts into their training regimen.

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Build a Balanced Body

In 2014, a research team at the Hong Kong Baptist University decided to study the effects of high-intensity workouts on the running performance of 16 people. During a 6-week period, runners performed HIIT workouts 3-4 times per week with exercises specifically picked to build the core muscles, as well as stress the muscles related to breathing. By the end of the testing period, runners were put through a 1-hour treadmill performance test. Runners that performed the high-intensity training tested with higher core strength, increased endurance and improved running performance.

One of the popular attractions of HIIT training is the diversity in exercises that aim to provide a full-body workout. As a runner, you work your legs a ton, but your upper body is often neglected or forgotten altogether. Not only will HIIT programs will continue to improve your aerobic stamina and muscle endurance, but it will also make you a stronger, more well-rounded athlete. HIIT incorporates strength moves that help build total-body fitness in a way that interval running and steady-state cardio does not.

Prevent Running Injuries

A well-designed HIIT class will ensure that your training regime is varied so that that you’re consistently hitting all muscles groups and avoiding overuse injuries. When it comes to runners, incorporating HIIT sessions can help you work more muscle groups and strengthen weaker areas to help improve your running form.

Core strength and strong arms will help you maintain good running form and stay in alignment during longer training runs, whereas the intense nature of the workout moves the muscles through the full range of motion, improving elasticity and enhancing coordination between your nervous system and muscles. The key here is that you adapt to it gradually, make a conscious effort to focus on good form and avoid aggravating any existing injuries.

Increased Explosiveness and Speed

HIIT can be extremely beneficial to runners due to it strengthening and explosiveness. During runs, you’re limited to moving forward and backward. In comparison, HIIT works all planes of motion, including lateral movements, rotational exercises, plyometrics and jumping. It’s a great way to maintain your overall fitness, stamina and endurance, while taking strides forward with your speed and explosiveness. So, if you’ve been training to get faster or beat your current personal record, adding HIIT training to your weekly workouts could be the key to getting you there.

Sculpt Your Body the Way You Want

Take a look at a marathon runner’s body compared to a sprinter’s. The marathoner is typically slim thanks to long distance runs that eat away at muscle, whereas the sprinter is muscular because they’re often doing explosive drills and strength exercises to increase performance.

Depending on your personal needs and fitness goals, the flexibility and configurability of HIIT workouts means you can adapt your classes in a way that works for you. Since HIIT combines elements of both cardio and strength training, you can gain and define muscle in addition to the fat loss. For balance, mix HIIT training with your runs, and you can effectively benefit from both.

The most effective HIIT workouts are the ones where you expend all-out effort and push your heart rate above 80% of your maximum. While traditional cardio trains your muscles to be more efficient–which is no doubt an important aspect for distance runners–incorporating the occasion high-intensity workout can lead to burning more calories for hours after the session has ended.