The 3 Pillars of Health: Fitness, Food, Sleep

HIIT Sprints


The idea of joining together HIIT (high intensity interval training) and sprinting is hardly new.

Probably so long as men and women have competed in sprint races they have used a form of interval training.

What is Sprinting?

Sprinting refers to those foot races between distances of 60 meters up to 400 meters.

Track for HIIT sprints

Runners are assigned lanes to run in for the entire distance.

The ideas I’ll discuss in this article apply to people who want to

  1. apply HIIT to training for sprint races, or
  2. use sprinting as part of an HIIT workout.

Sprinting Success

There are a number of factors that determine if you will be a successful sprinter.

Some factors are beyond your control. You were either born with them or you weren’t.

These genetic factors include your:

  • proportion of fast twitch muscles
  • leg length
  • pelvic width

However, there are other significant factors that you can improve with training:

  • muscle strength
  • adrenaline use
  • anaerobic respiration capacity
  • breathing
  • footspeed

One of the ways to improve these factors is to add HIIT sprints into your training program.

How to do HIIT Sprinting

woman sprinting

One of the common ways to do an HIIT workout is to work hard for a time interval followed by a less intense time interval.

One popular set of time intervals is the 20 / 10 system consisting of 20 seconds of exertion followed by 10 seconds of rest and recovery.

However, for sprint HIIT it’s probably better to use distance intervals.

For instance, your local outdoor track probably has a clearly defined 100 meter section.

You could sprint the 100 meters at your fastest pace and then return to the starting line at either a slow jog or a walk.

Repeating this process 8 or 10 times would be a very significant HIIT sprint workout.

Be sure to warm up before you start your sprinting and include a cool down period afterwards.

Heart Rate

Another way you could do an HIIT sprinting workout is to monitor your heart rate.

First you need to calculate your workout heart rates. This will be two numbers, one for high intensity and one for low intensity.

The formulas are:
High intensity heart rate calculation:
(220 – Your Age) x 0.85

Low intensity heart rate calculation:
(220 – Your Age) x 0.65

For example, if you are 45, then your number are:
high intensity: (220 – 45) x 0.85 = 175 x 0.85 = 149 beats per minute
low intensity: (220 – 45) x 0.65 = 175 x 0.65 = 114 beats per minute

This workout will be easier if you’re wearing a heart rate monitor.

Start by sprinting until you bring your heart rate up to 149 beats per minute (as in the example) and then continue at that pace for 30 seconds.

Then slow your pace to a slow jog or walk until your heart rate slows down to the low intensity rate of 114.

Now repeat the cycle a second time.

Depending upon your fitness level, try repeating these cycles for 5 or 10 repetitions.

Sample Workouts

There really are no limits to the variety of HIIT sprints workouts you can design for yourself.

You can vary the distance intervals or the time intervals. Base the number of repetitions on your current fitness level.

Remember, it’s not necessary to train to total exhaustion to obtain good results.

You can see some sample HIIT running and sprint workouts in the upcoming article “HIIT Running Workouts.”

Update: the workouts article is now posted online.

Photo Credits: Flickr – sepblog stopwatch
Flickr – daveynin outdoor track
Flickr – tabor-roeder woman sprinter