The Ideal HIIT Conditioning Workout For Runners

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When aiming to improve their running, the first tactic most people try is to run more. It’s an intuitive, and largely wise, move. After that, they might try changing up their sessions, mixing in hill or sprint work. Again, that’s a good move.

At a certain point, though, to keep improving you need to look beyond running, as Sean Lerwill – Maximuscle personal trainer and former Royal Marines training instructor – explains. “The most common mistake I see runners make is one that I made myself years ago: to get better and quicker at running, you just run. And run. And run. And then wonder why the times aren’t coming down.

“The reason is you aren’t paying any attention to strength and conditioning. Without strengthening the muscles required for running, and then conditioning them for stamina and endurance specific to running, you’re unlikely to see better results.”

RECOMMENDED: Strength Training For Runners

You can never accuse Coach of just identifying a problem without offering solutions. We also asked Lerwill to provide a HIIT workout that will help improve your running by focusing on your conditioning.

“The idea of a HIIT workout is to work the cardiovascular system and the muscles at high intensity,” explains Lerwill. “That means it helps with conditioning rather than strength, so it is worth doing some separate strength sessions.”

The HIIT Workout For Runners

The five stages in this session work the heart, then the legs, the core and the legs again with a final interval for the heart to finish. The workout should last around 40 minutes, including warm-up and warm-down. Make sure you don’t take more than a quick drink between stages.

“In terms of muscles used, the heart is obviously given a good workout during the majority of this,” says Lerwill.

“All of the legs, from calves to glutes, get a good thrashing in the jump squats. The glutes, quads and hamstrings are worked on the split squats and the glute bridge hits the hamstrings and glutes.

“The planks give the core and shoulders some training, and the sprints at the beginning and end work pretty much everything else a runner needs to worry about.”


Start with a light jog for 2-3min, then mobilise and dynamically stretch the muscles before another 2-3min jog, speeding up over the last minute to a decent pace.

1 150m sprint

Reps 5 Rest 45sec

Do five 150m sprints with 45sec rest between them. Each should be an all-out sprint – imagine you’re coming round the bend into the home straight in a race.

2 Tabata jump squat

Sets 8 Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Lower into a squat and then jump as high as you can. Land softly and bend the knees back into the squat position, then go straight into the next rep. Use Tabata timings so you do 20sec work followed by 10sec rest. If you have problems cushioning the knees properly, touch the floor with the hands beside the feet after each rep.

3 Tabata pulse Bulgarian split squat

Sets 8 Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Place one foot on a bench or step behind you and the other in front of you. Squat down on the front leg, keeping your torso upright. At the bottom, pulse (a small down-and-up movement) and then return to the top position. Then repeat for the next rep. This is Tabata again, so after 20sec of squats, rest for 10sec and switch to the other leg for the next set. Continue alternating legs.

4 Tabata pulse one-leg glute bridge

Sets 8 Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Lie on your back with the head away from the step or bench, and place one foot onto the step and raise the other into the air. Drive down through the heel on the step to raise your hips until your shoulder, hip and knee are in line. Pulse at the top before returning to the start position and then go straight into the next rep. Again, this uses Tabata timings, so after 20sec rest for 10sec rest, then continue with the other leg and keep alternating with each set.

5 Tabata plank

Sets 8 Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Get into a plank position – forearms supporting you, body straight – and hold for 20sec, then rest for 10sec. If that’s too easy, try figure of eight planks instead: keeping the toes and elbows fixed in place, move the ankles over the toes in a figure of eight shape, thus moving the upper body over the arms in a figure of 8 as well.

6 100m sprint

Reps 5 Rest 50sec

Five 100m sprints with 50sec rest between them. As with the 150m sprints, these should be all-out efforts – imagine the finish line is in sight and you’re within reach of a PB.

Warm down and stretch

Take 1-2min to walk around with your hands on the lower part of your chest. Then perform a stretch routine either indoors (or, if outdoors, once you’ve put on more clothing to stay warm).

RECOMMENDED: How To Warm Up For A Run And Cool Down Afterwards

Visit for more training plans and advice

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.