Sprint Interval Training Workouts to Build Speed and Endurance

Whether you are an experienced runner looking for a competitive advantage for your next race or just running casually but still want to improve your speed and endurance, sprint interval training can be incredibly useful.

Fortunately, you can adopt numerous sprint interval training workouts to improve your speed, endurance, and muscular strength. To help you take your running training to the next level, we will highlight three of the most popular and effective sprint interval training workouts and styles.

We will also cover why this training is beneficial and why all runners should try it, regardless of experience level.

What Is Sprint Interval Training & Why Is It Beneficial?

Sprint interval training is a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) explicitly designed to improve running endurance and performance. Like other forms of HIIT, sprint interval training involves short bursts of maximum-intensity sprinting followed by low-intensity jogging or resting periods.

By pushing the body’s running abilities to their absolute limits for short periods broken up with periods of recovery, you can significantly improve your cardiovascular endurance, running speed, and overall fitness level. 

It is an effective training style that can result in significant improvements in much shorter periods. By challenging the body to work extremely hard in short lengths of time, rather than going easier for longer durations, a runner’s muscles can be strengthened faster and at the same time that their metabolic response is triggered at a higher rate. It can also significantly improve aerobic capacity over time.

Why Should You Add Sprint Interval Training to Your Routine?

Aside from improving speed and endurance, sprint interval training offers additional advantages over traditional training techniques. For starters, it is incredibly time-efficient, as you can complete an entire workout in as little as 15 to 20 minutes. 

For those looking to improve their running capabilities but lacking time to spend hours running multiple times per week, sprint interval training can be a way to train quickly and effectively.

Sprint interval training does not require much in terms of equipment or space. You simply need running shoes and a stopwatch or timer. The training can be carried out on a track, treadmill, or flat, obstacle-free surface. 

Types of Sprint Interval Training Workouts & How to Perform Them

Runner on their marks on track preparing to start sprinting

While all forms of sprint interval training follow the same basic principles and seek to accomplish the same goals, there are different types of workouts you can follow. We have outlined three of the most popular sprint interval training workout types to simplify things. 

Each type of workout has its demands, so you will have to consider your preferences to determine the best option. With that said, there is nothing wrong with trying all three types of workouts, then deciding which you prefer and which produces the best results for your specific running aim.

1. Hill Sprint Training

Man in shorts and tank top sprinting up hillside

As the name implies, hill sprint training involves running up a steep hill at your highest level of intensity. The recovery phase of this particular type of sprint interval training occurs when you are walking or lightly jogging back down the hill.

To perform a hill sprint workout, work your way through the following steps:

  • Locate a hill with a steep incline where you can get good traction. A grassy hill with an incline of roughly 30 to 40 yards is ideal.
  • Before you begin, perform basic dynamic stretches and a light five-minute jog to warm up.
  • Once you are ready to begin, sprint up the hill as quickly as possible. Focus on propelling your body up the hill by driving the balls of your feet into the ground. Pump your arms and lean forward for added momentum.
  • After reaching the top of the hill at full speed, lightly jog or walk back down. This is your recovery phase, so you should not be pushing yourself on the way down.
  • Repeat this process for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Once you have performed as many hill sprints as possible during the time allotment, cool down with static stretching and a light jog.

2. Fartlek Interval Sprint Training

Fartlek training originates from Sweden. In fact, the name “Fartlek” is a Swedish term that translates to “speed play.” This particular type of interval sprint training involves alternating periods of extreme effort with stretches of active recovery. 

To begin Fartlek training, you will need to do as follows:

  • Find a flat, obstacle-free area to sprint and jog without issues. Once you have selected a safe location, begin warming up with basic stretching and a light jog.
  • Once ready to begin, choose a visible landmark, such as a tree, street sign, or traffic cone. Sprint at full speed as quickly as you can to that object.

If you cannot see anything, you can create a landmark with a backpack or any other object. Aim for something that is roughly 50 yards from your starting point. 

One of the keys to Fartlek training is the varied distances you cover during the sprinting phase, so you should not spend too much time measuring distances. It is meant to be a loose and varied form of sprint training.

  • Once you reach your chosen object or landmark, slow your pace to a mild jog. After catching your breath, choose another object at a similar distance you can sprint to, or simply use your recovery phase to jog back to your starting position.
  • Continue this cycle of full-effort sprinting and light jogging for at least 20 minutes. Once your desired amount of time has expired, lightly jog to cool down, then complete static leg stretches.

3. Tabata Interval Training

Tabata interval training is often seen as the most common type of sprint interval training, as it is popular with athletes from various sports.

This training involves performing 20 seconds of full-effort sprinting and 10 seconds of active rest. This process is repeated eight times, so the entire workout takes as little as four minutes if you do not count the warm-up and cool-down segments.

To begin a session of Tabata interval training, perform the following steps:

  • Locate a flat, obstacle-free area where you can sprint and jog without any risk of tripping.
  • Warm your muscles up with a light 5-minute jog and some basic stretches.
  • Once you are ready to begin, immediately begin sprinting at full speed for 20 seconds. You will need a watch or a visible track clock for this type of training, as timing is key.
  • After 20 seconds of all-out sprinting, walk or lightly jog for 10 seconds. Once the 10-second rest period has elapsed, repeat the sprinting phase. You will perform each workout component exactly eight times, which should be just four minutes.
  • After the eighth and final round, finish with a cool-down phase of light jogging and static stretching.

How Often Should You Practice Sprint Interval Training?

Your sprint interval training frequency will depend on your running goals and your body’s ability to recover. While these workouts are short, they are extremely taxing on your body, so you will need time to recover. For most beginners, you will only want to incorporate sprint interval training into your routine once per week.

Pay attention to how your body reacts to this new form of exercise. If you experience pain and injuries, alter the training to make it less intense, or practice another style of sprint interval training. For example, some runners find it difficult to perform hill sprint training as they have injury-prone knees and ankles. These runners should focus on the flat-ground forms of sprint interval training.

Do You Need to Increase the Intensity at Any Point?

You can certainly increase the intensity of your sprint interval training sessions, but you must do so gradually. Your body needs to adjust to this exercise; otherwise, you risk over-exhaustion and various injuries.

Once you can comfortably complete your current sprint interval training routine, consider increasing the frequency of the workouts, as well as their duration. You must also continue to practice jogging and running rather than replace all your training with sprint interval training. Incorporating cross-training into your routine is also highly beneficial.

Final Words

Sprint interval training is a great way to improve your overall fitness and your ability to run greater distances at a faster pace. As with any new form of training, be careful and ensure you are doing everything possible to avoid picking up injuries.

Start slow and give your body plenty of time to recover after your first training session. If you start slow, listen to your body, and balance sprint interval training with other forms of exercise, you will see the benefits faster than you might expect!

author avatar
Josh Jacobson

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