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Tabata: the ultimate outdoor winter workout for runners

This fast-and-furious form of HIIT training is the perfect strength session to do outside in the cold

Here at Canadian Running, we talk a lot about the benefits of strength training for runners, but without access to a gym it can be difficult to do an effective workout. Tabata sets are a great way to put in a lot of work in a short amount of time, and they can be done without weights, so you don’t need a gym to complete them. This high-intensity method of training will light your muscles up and help you build strength to avoid injury and get faster, so you can run a personal best at your next virtual race.

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How to do Tabata

Tabata is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that alternates short, 20-second bursts of activity with 10 seconds of rest between intervals for a total of four minutes. Because the work intervals are so short, you can perform the exercises at maximum intensity, but thanks to the short rest, your heart rate stays elevated and your muscles stay warm, creating a greater training effect. You can choose to include any number of exercises in your workout, including moves that target your legs, core and upper body to get a dynamic, full-body workout, and perform as many rounds as you need in order to feel like you’ve gotten the most out of your session.

Why Tabata is great for the winter

Thanks to its fast-and-furious nature, Tabata is a great workout to do outside in the winter, because you get warm and stay warm. Plus, it can be done in such a short amount of time that you don’t have to stay out in the cold for very long to get a good workout in. Combine that with the fact that it can be done with little to no equipment, Tabata-style HIIT training is possibly the ultimate method for outdoor winter strength training.


For those of you who want to combine your strength training with your run for one high-impact session, plan your route so you have a place to stop every couple of kilometres and take a break to do one four-minute round of Tabata. You can easily fit four to five Tabata stops into a 10K run, and it can be a fun way to break up the monotony of solo running. For an extra boost of motivation, there are plenty of downloadable Tabata playlists on Spotify and Apple Music that time each segment to popular songs, so you can focus on the workout instead of worrying about the timing.

Get your isolation buddy to join you for extra motivation

Full-body Tabata workout for runners

For each of these segments, alternate your work intervals between the two exercises given. Perform each exercise for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, and between rounds, take one minute of rest before moving on to the next, bringing the total workout time up to 20 minutes.

Round 1:  Air squats + jump squats (to lower the intensity slightly, you can just do straight air squats)

Round 2: Pushups + dips (you will need to find a bench or ledge of some kind to perform the dips)

Round 3: Reverse lunges + lunge jumps (to lower the intensity, replace jump lunges with forward lunges)

Round 4: Mountain climbers + side plank with knee drive (balancing on one hand or elbow, bring the knee of your top leg into your chest. To lower the intensity, do a side plank without the knee drive)

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