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.
[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.