Interval Training Workouts – HIIT vs Steady State Cardio


Anybody who knows me will tell you that I’m not big into low intensity, aerobic based, endurance sessions, such as performing a steady state 30 minute run.

Now you must understand that my reasoning for this is because most people I am working with or trying to help are primarily concerned with looking better and increasing their fitness levels.

In order to look better and increase your fitness levels you have to focus on what needs to be done first, not what you like to do. Also, you may read this and think that doing some steady state cardio or low intensity aerobic exercise will help your fitness, and it will, but only very slightly and only initially when you start exercising after a period of inactivity. The problem with aerobic exercise is that it has a built-in intensity ceiling.

It’s also important that you understand that you need to make the most of what training time you have and the activities you perform must have a positive impact on your post workout metabolism. Basically, you need to train for strength and also train metabolically so you can take advantage of EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption).

All that being said, I know there are many people out there who still love to get in a good run every once in a while or maybe even 1-2 times per week. I’m not anti long distance running at all, I used to be a middle distance and cross-country runner many years ago myself, but like I said before I’m primarily dealing with people interested in physique development and not endurance training.

interval-training-workouts-1Nowadays interval training has become increasingly popular amongst personal trainers and fitness enthusiasts. Interval training isn’t anything new. It has been around for decades and primarily used by athletes. Interval training consists of periods of high intensity work, followed by periods of low intensity work. The work to rest ratios for interval training are usually 1:2 or 1:3. Rarely are the work to rest ratios set at 1:1. A work to rest ratio of 1:1 would mean that if you do 30 seconds high intensity work you then follow that with 30 seconds low intensity work. Usually a rest period of 2-3 times the work period is needed with intervals.

My background is in track and field so I know about interval training as I have been performing it since back in 1994. What I want to do now is introduce you to another training protocol used by track athletes, mainly 400m runners, as I think this will be something all you ex distance athletes and runner lovers will truly enjoy performing.

I want to introduce you to DYNAMIC RUNS. A dynamic run will last a total of 30 minutes and it is interval based, meaning the speed will not be constant. Rather there will be periods throughout the run were the speed will increase.

The initial few minutes of the run are considered a warm up period and after that you will get into the main portion (20 minutes approximately) of the run. The last 5 minutes are used as a cool down period. So the intense portion lasts about 20 minutes.

The further into the run you get the shorter the speed increase periods become. In the sample template below you will see an initial speed increase period of 60 seconds, then 45 seconds and then 30 seconds. As these speed increase time periods get shorter the aim is to increase the actually speed of the run segment.

Also, the further into the run you get the closer together the work to rest ratios become. For example the last segment in the sample below is 5 times 30 seconds speed increase period with 30 seconds of lower intensity work in between each 30 second segment.

interval-training-workouts-3With the dynamic run, unlike interval training, during the easy segment you will NOT return to a slow walk pace. Rather you will return to what I call your base level speed setting. A baseline speed setting is a speed setting you will ALWAYS return to after every speed increase period. It is basically a slow jogging pace.

In the sample dynamic run below I have placed in speeds I used for my own 30-minute dynamic run just last week. As you will see there was a base level speed setting of 7kmh throughout my run. This means that I ALWAYS returned to this speed setting after my speed increase periods.

The beauty of the dynamic run is that you are finishing the session off at your fastest pace. This is great for metabolic boosting purposes. Always try FINISH STRONG and FINISH FAST!


1x5 Minute (5 Mins Total)Last 60 Seconds Increase Speed (@ 4 Minutes)5 Minutes7KMH
3x3 Minute (9 Mins Total)Last 45 Seconds Increase Speed (@ Minutes 7.15,10.15,13.15)14 Minutes7KMH
3x2 Minute (6 Mins Total)Last 30 Seconds Increase Speed (@ Minutes 15 ½ 17 ½ 19 ½)20 Minutes7KMH
5x1 Minute (5 Mins Total)Last 30 Seconds Increase Speed (@ 20 ½ 21 ½ 22 ½ 23 ½ 24 ½)25 Minutes7KMH
1x5 Minute (5 Mins Total)None (Cool Down Period)30 Minutes7KMH -

PLEASE NOTE: The speed levels on display here are solely to show how the run is performed and to clearly illustrate the way in which the speed increase periods are increasing (IN SPEED) the further into the run you go.

Ideally these runs are performed on a treadmill as it’s much easier to know when to go up and down the speeds using the clock-timer on the treadmill screen. However, you could also do these on a grass field and use a stopwatch. Each option (treadmill and grass field) has it’s advantages and disadvantages.

The disadvantage of the treadmill option is having to press the speed buttons on the treadmill to go up and down the speeds and some treadmills reduce speed slowly. The disadvantage of the grass field option is having to look at your stopwatch every so often.

One thing I would suggest is to print out the actual workout and place it on the treadmill where the clock is so you know when to go up and down the speeds.

NOTE: Although this is called a DYNAMIC RUN, you could also use this same protocol and perform on an upright stationary gym bike, a rowing machine or even a cross-trainer, although personally I’m not a big fan of cross trainers and you need to have good technique with rowing machines to avoid injury and benefit from using them. So I would suggest using the bike option if you’re someone who isn’t into running.

Go ahead and try this protocol the next time you hit up the gym and consider doing a 30 minute run. Trust me, you might think it’s easy looking at it on paper, but dial in the right speeds and you’ll see how superior this session is to a traditional 30 minute run!

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About Author

Ian Graham

My training philosophy is to always train individuals like they are athletes. Even if they are not competing in any sport, they can gain from this athletic approach. We are all designed to perform like athletes. The athletic approach can help anyone achieve their health and fitness, fat loss and muscle building goals! See my profile page for more information!

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