Outdoor Progressive Interval Training. Fat Burning HIIT, In the Great Outdoors.

May 25, 2011

It is possible to do effective interval training outdoors, but you have to take a slightly different approach compared to doing them on a treadmill. With a typical cardio machine you can adjust the intensity level by simply pressing a button. When you perform intervals outdoors, you are simply guessing at how hard you need to run for the intense portion of the interval. I plan on outlining a solution and better way to perform HIIT when you aren’t near a cardio machine.

outdoor interval training

[The idea of this post is to give you a workout you can do outside on any surface. Don’t be put off by how simple it is…this type of progressive training works extremely well.]

“It’s Kind of Hard to Gauge When You Are Not On a Treadmill”

One of the readers on the Fitness Black Book Facebook Page, put up a great question today…

“Rusty, another question about HIIT. Weather was great today, so I ran outside. I tried to increase the speed with each sprint, but it’s kind of hard to gauge when you’re not on a treadmill. About half way through I just ran about as hard as I could during the sprints. Is that OK? I’ve done HIIT off and on the last few years that way and had decent success.”

It is Hard to Gauge Intensity Levels When Not on a Machine!

What happens with any type of HIIT, is that you need to make it progressively harder over time to continue to get results. If you simply stick to the same intensity level forever, you will reach a fat loss sticking point. So the problem when training outdoors is that it is difficult to really tell if you are pushing harder than the previous workout.

We Need to Use a Slightly Different Approach Outside.

Here is an interval training workout that measures improvement in a real, tangible way. It is setup to where intensity will increase over time naturally. I will outline the workout first and then explain the reasons behind the way it is setup. The only thing you will need is some sort of timer…and possibly a little notebook to record your results.

Outdoor Progressive Interval Training

  • Go to the Field of Your Choice: It can be a grass field, the beach, your backyard, a street in front of your house, etc.  I wanted to set this up to where this can be performed anywhere outside.  Really the only people who will have problems with this are agoraphobics.
  • Mark off a Starting Point and an Ending Point: Put some sort of marker down on the ground, walk 50 yards and place another marker on the ground. It doesn’t have to be exactly 50 yards. The point is to count out how many steps it takes you to get to roughly 50 yards. Write down how many paces between the markers. The important point is that you are going to want to run this same distance each and every workout.
  • Set a Timer for 20 Minutes: Even a cheap $5 mechanical kitchen timer will do the trick.
  • Run 50 Yards Then Rest: You are NOT going to want to do an all-out sprint. Take it easy this first time. Sprint to the end marker and rest approximately 30 seconds.
  • Run Back to the Start Point Then Rest: Run back to the start marker and rest approximately 30 seconds. This time put down a dash on your little notebook. After 30 seconds it is time to run to the marker on the opposite side of the field again.
  • Repeat This Until the 20 Minutes Are Up: Once you are done make a note of how many times you made it back to the starting marker in 20 minutes. Write this number down. The goal is to beat this number each and every time you do this interval workout outside.


[I’m a big fan of “Field Notes” memo books. I carry one around in my back pocket these days to jot down ideas. I have a smart phone that I could use instead, but trying to “get off the grid” when possible. I love and hate technology!]


Intensity Levels Will Increase as Performance Improves.

In order to do more sprints in less time you will have to either decrease your rest periods or increase the speed of your sprints. This will contribute to greater HGH release, a greater after-burn effect, more calories burned, etc. The idea is that you are using progression in your interval training…in a way that you can accurately measure.

I Recommend You Use Periodization in this Workout As Well.

What I mean by that, is to purposely start off easy and then gradually work your way to where you are pushing the limit. Maybe just aim for improving by one more sprint in 20 minutes from workout to workout. Perhaps the first 5-6 workouts are purposely easy for you. This type of setup is used in lifting…and helps lifters make positive improvements much longer than if they go as hard as possible from day one.

What Happens When You Can’t Beat Your Personal Best?

I have the ideal solution. Simply increase or decrease the distance of your sprint. So if you were sprinting roughly 50 yards before…maybe you extend out to 70 yards. Just like in lifting, you would want to back off at first and then slowly increase the intensity to where you were pushing hard. So you are using both progression and periodization in your outdoor intervals workouts…but bystanders will simply think you are just mindlessly running in a field.

Note: I put up a post yesterday about Adrenaline Intervals on My Facebook Page. Supposedly a study in Australia showed a specific work-to-rest interval that burned stubborn body fat better than traditional intervals. Who knows? Something to try anyway.

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It's like a Ford Pinto compared to my new site...which is like a Ferrari. Click the link to head over to my new site.

Starting Over...R.I.P. Fitness Black Book!

Thanks for reading all these years!

----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

California Lemon Law Paralegal June 7, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Hi Rusty,

Before I changed my career and started working as a lemon lawyer’s assistant in San Diego, I’ve worked as a PT for 13 years and used to have bootcamp classes outdoors. I’d say, more than 70% of people after trying them had hard time going back to the gyms, and preferred to train outside.
I always thought that a good way to increase your performance is to find a workout partner who is either a) as competitive as you are (thus, you can push each other more); or b) a great motivator (he/she can push you).
Oh, and give a TRX a go during one of your outdoor workouts – you’ll be hooked!


Edward June 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Hi I have been a long time reader ( love the blog :D) and I would really appriciate it if you could help me with some of my questions. My goal is to have a stuart pilkington body or like ryan reynolds. I have been working out for like 6 months and the results are good but I am not satisfied. First is that I have no chest muscles, I recently read in your facebook on that chest mass with push ups and I am gonna start doing them then when I am in the gym I am gonna only include incline dumbell presses. How long does it take get a really good chest also how many reps, set and rest time should I do to get a good chest. Second is that I am not satisfied with my obliques ( I know I have some fat covering my lower abs and obliques ) but should I still include side planks, lying leg rises and plank, or drop it or include something else( I wanna have that v as cristiano ronaldo 😛 ) , to get a good abs and obliques?? Hehe sorry if I am asking to much but my last question is how can someone get a longer torso? I have seen some people with really short and blocky bodies but I asked them what their workouts look like and the only thing they do is stay in the gym and nothing else, no swimming or running. Some sports does change the appearance of someones body like for example a swimmer, they have this long and toned body with good v and obliques, soccer players like cristiano ronaldo have good obliques , probably becuase of the running they do and good set of abs, but for some reason is cristiano the only player with really big lats 😛 Should i include swimming to get a longer torso and to tone my body and what can i do to avoid getting a short and blocky body, for example whats exercies causes it?? To summeraze everything short, how many reps, sets and resting should I do to get really good chest muscles, for example like ryan reynolds, should continue with my ab workouts, include something or stop doing it, should I swim and sprint to get a long and lean torso and what causes it that someone has that short and blocky body?? Thanks for everything //// Edward

Helen June 8, 2011 at 8:30 am

Great article!
I love the fact that your suggestions are suitable even for those who don’t have a heart rate watch but who would like to try some outdoor interval training.


31minutefitness June 10, 2011 at 10:30 am

Very good read! I’ve been training very similar to this for the past year and a half. NEVER FELT BETTER! keep up the good work!

Scott Jones June 10, 2011 at 11:21 am

Great ideas for getting outside. For those of us in the “almost a senior” age bracket, why not apply the same concept to walking or riding a bike?
Many thanks.

Louis June 17, 2011 at 1:38 am

I love doing my hiit cardio outside. I just go to a park and do sprints or find one with a basketball court and do some suicides. I live in San Diego now so I can train outside a lot which is nice!

Running Shoe Jen June 20, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Thanks for the tip about buying a cheap timer! It’s a great way try to improve by beating your own best time.

FitLiz June 20, 2011 at 8:54 pm

I absolutely love HIIT workouts! I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog, I love your outlook and I especially and interested in your book, Visual Impact Women. That was always my fear when I would get into a workout routine, I did NOT want to get bulky. I’m a fan of those long, lean muscles. Thanks for posting such insightful material, I see this being one of my daily electronic stops 😉

Gabriel Martinez NYC Personal Trainer June 22, 2011 at 4:56 am

As an NYC Personal Trainer I have to give my full guarantee: This type of Training weather it be with a Personal Trainer of by your self is the number one best way to train for fat loss. Try it for 6-12 weeks and you will see.

Cayle @ www.belly-fat-workouts.com June 23, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Awesome post! Seriously I have been doing the interval training for years now, works so well. like the person above said, just try it.. it will workout for you

Jesper Wilson June 24, 2011 at 12:39 am

I never really took into consideration doing periodization with HIIT training. When I do it I always just sprint as hard as I can. But, periodization makes sense to help avoid injuries and ease off on your body a bit.

Hyo June 28, 2011 at 3:10 am

I love working out at the park. I’ve been following the visual impact program for little over a month at home but have not been doing the HIIT portion of it. But for the last couple workouts, I’ve taken my bands to the park and did the workouts there. And I finished with 15 mins of HIIT the last 2 times.

My legs from hip to toes are toast and feeling great today. I will henceforth be doing the HIIT sessions. What a knucklehead I’ve been skipping those.

I agree with the point to take it easy on the first couple of runs to avoid possible injury. And where I ran had a incline to it and that seems to make it more intense.

Anyways, thanks for the article.

Jonathon's Fitness June 30, 2011 at 11:36 pm

The best part of an outdoor workout is the dedication you are showing to your body. The above method leaves you outside with nothing standing in your way. Breaking personal barriers means continual success. Awesome post!

Richard July 13, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Training outside is just feels better doesnt it

Fitness Guy - How to put on muscle July 20, 2011 at 4:21 pm

The treadmill can get really boring there is something awesome about training outdoors.

Get some sun and fresh air. Much more natural in my opinion.

cjgk July 22, 2011 at 12:32 am

Hi Rusty,

I have bought your Visual Impact book and have been itching to do the marathon cardiio to slim out my legs – but you only talk about running. I hurt my knee and can’t run, but can do other cardio exercises. Could I possibly do marathon cardio on the elliptical or with a jump rope, or even walking long periods of time?


Deanna July 29, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Hey, I can get into this! While I’ve used the treadmill for HIIT, I always felt out-of-control during sprints, like it was pushing me instead of me pushing the ground. But, just like you point out, when I do sprints outdoors, I have no real way of measuring progress. Usually I would find a starting point, see how far I could go in 30 seconds, and then make sure each subsequent sprint was at least that long, if not longer. This adds a lot more structure, and I like the idea of starting easier and then pushing myself at the end, when I feel most like Jell-O. I can’t wait to try this!

Brad Pitt Workout August 16, 2011 at 12:47 pm

yes super stuff man. fat burning or loss the weight with Outdoor Progressive Interval Training is really an impressive method for perfect and enhanced workout. But i think it really needs true dedication towards your destination. According to me here in the case of “Outdoor Progressive Interval Training” we need only one thing and that is dedication and devotion. bcoz it needs real hard work. and truth is that people ignore to allow their body to follow complete and proper Outdoor Progressive Interval Training.

Niko August 18, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Great article, when I want to do an outdoor HIIT session I head down to my local school footy field, the lines are already marked out for me which takes the guess work out of measuring distances.


Lean body mass September 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm

This is absolutely amazing. I had joint problems before trying this. After only 3 months of doing this my joints are back and in no pain what so ever.
Lovely read, and I can highly recommend this.

Lean man – lean body mass

weight loss October 17, 2011 at 8:58 am

amazing article, very informative for beginners!

keep fit October 17, 2011 at 10:07 am

I’m a great fan of progressive interval training. Slow and steady wins the race!

Dr. Pierre Paradis October 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Great post. I’m a big fan of HIIT and being outside instead of on a treadmill is a welcoming change.

Luke Cage - Fit Switch October 26, 2011 at 3:12 pm

I used to train HIIT all the time. It’s very effective in burning fat. However many people have a tough time maintaining rigorous workouts, that’s why I’m all about the mental approach to fitness. Because there is tons of good info out there on “the best ways to burn fat” but I don’t think that’s the problem with most people.

95% of people fail if they only focus on diet and exercise.

Pretty revealing statistic. What gets someone to go from working in Dairy Queen in his mid-forties to running over a hundred miles? It’s pretty easy to keep the weight off if you can shift your paradigm.

Lean body mass October 27, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Yes yes yes. Amazing article. I was so out of motivation before this. Now ive read through this article at least 5 times and going to the gym later today! I really feel up it again, and it is great.

Thanks for this.

PP – Breville BES860XL | DeLonghi ESAM3300

Kodjo October 30, 2011 at 10:24 am

Great info, Moore!
HIIT is the key to a lean body without the gym membership cost associated with it because you can pretty much doing it anywhere! One of the HIIT exercises I do is on the treadmill. I set the incline to the max level (Level 15); then alternate between 30 seconds runs and 30 second walks (5 mile/Hr for the runs and 1 mile/Hr for the walks). I do this for 30min and then immediately combine with jump jacks or jump ropes. The feeling is amazing!

Here is another HIIT routine I videotaped this summer:


Exercise On Abs November 9, 2011 at 10:22 am

Rusty, I got to admit.. You have a very special articles!
Nice post!

Coach Calorie November 29, 2011 at 9:22 am

I hate the hamster wheel. If there’s ever a choice, I prefer to workout outdoors. I even built my gym on my outdoor patio. HIIT training outside has many benefits. You have all kinds of natural training variations. You can run hills, stairs, sprints, bleachers, or trails. They each have their benefits and can add something different to your HIIT routine.

puapve December 13, 2011 at 12:58 am

This is a really cool workout, I’m gonna try it on the beach this summer. I’ll sprint from one lifeguard stand to another I usually do 400 meter sprints and I use a Garmin watch to gauge my pace.

http://www.easyweightloss99.com/buy-hcg-everything-you-need-to-know-is-here December 22, 2011 at 7:49 am

The really cool thing about being on HCG weight loss drops is that users have reported being in especially good moods and full of energy. Baring in mind the VLCD (very low calorie diet) I know how grumpy I get when Im starving. lol

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms April 17, 2012 at 1:13 am

Im secfo and my flight chief had us do circuit training for workouts and ive tried crossfit along with a lot of other different methodologies .The workout one of the sgts put us through during the crossfit session was beast .And it is scalable just gotta make sure you scale it, if you let someone else push you to do something to hurt yourself your doing just that hurting yourself.

Nick May 23, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Hi Rusty, bought your course and been doing it for a few weeks now. All going well so far. Love the site and the advice.

I love doing sprints for this. Our house backs on to a country park over here in Wales, UK. There is a gravel path going down the hill to a stream at the bottom. Half way up there is a tree.

I have no idea how far it is exactly but I know that it takes me about 15/ 20 seconds to sprint up the hill to this tree and about 60 secs to walk back down. I do this 10 times and I am wrecked.

This is my outdoor interval training. I love it, especially at this time of year when the sun is shining.

Patrick July 10, 2012 at 4:55 am

Can someone help me with defining the difference between “HIIT” training and “LT” training? I subscribe to all of Rusty’s programs (with good results!) and as I drill down to get the most out of my cardio, I see these formats used almost interchangeably. Thanks.


biotin for hair growth September 29, 2012 at 10:18 pm

I do not write a ton of remarks, however i did
a few searching and wound up here Outdoor Progressive Interval Training.

Fat Burning HIIT, In the Great Outdoors.. And I actually do have
a couple of questions for you if you don’t mind. Is it simply me or does it look as if like some of these remarks look as if they are coming from brain dead people? 😛 And, if you are writing at additional sites, I would like to keep up with anything new you have to post. Would you make a list of every one of all your shared pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

Rebecca May 29, 2013 at 11:36 am

Rusty –
I bought your Visual Impact for Women and have been using it for a couple of months. I have seen some good results. I am a former Cross Fitter who didn’t like the results and bulk I got from that program, among other issues with it. Anyway, I do your HIIT program outside with an interval timer app on my iphone and it works well. I do make sure I push myself during the sprints as I run through my neighborhood vs running on a field. I just wanted to present an alternative method.

Thanks for much for all of your expertise!

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