Running - The Workout You Love and Hate
running is running at anaerobic pace. It is taxing for the body.
Interval workouts bring results however, so incorporate these workouts
into your program!
Don't feel like reading? Then just watch this quick video which will
explain it all to you:
Before you start doing intervals, you should be able to run at easy
pace for at least one hour. Yep, first build your base, then
And even then, my advice is that you do a speed workout only
once a week. That is enough if you are training for longer races (10K
Interval running workouts are taxing, hard sessions. Too many of them
in a week will make it too hard to put other tough workouts (long runs,
lactate treshold runs) into your schedule.
What is Interval Pace?
Interval pace is faster than your lactate treshold
pace. It is the pace at which you feel lactic acid building
up in your legs. You will not be able to hold this pace for miles and
miles without having to slow down.
As with other paces, your heart rate monitor can help you in
establishing proper interval pace. Read more about heart rate monitor
use in the heart
rate monitor training section.
Not using a heart rate monitor? Then go by feel. It is a pace
which will leave you out-of-breath. Not quite an all-out-attempt, but
it is not far off.
Why Do Intervals?
Intervals help to improve
oxygen delivery to the muscles.
When you run fast, your heart needs to beat faster.
It needs to pump more blood (oxygen) to your running muscles.
Your muscles need to work on absorbing that oxygen as efficiently as possible.
So, this speed trains your body in getting better at oxygen processing.
That sounds great, but why is this good?
The more oxygen which is delivered to your muscles, the faster and the
further you will be able to run. Your muscles need the oxygen to function. If they don't get enough of it, they will not work as well for you.
So, How Many Intervals Do I Do?
Like with all kinds of new training, if it is your first time, start
cautious. And go from there.
Maybe the first interval session you do only consists of four 30-second
intervals with a 30-second or one-minute jog in between. Of course, your
total run would be longer than four minutes or so, you'd add a warming
up and cooling down to the mix!
But yes, start with not too many intervals and not too long ones. Take
it from there and build up slowly.
If you are a starting runner (this is your first year), do 30-second to
1-minute intervals with a 30-second to 1-minute recovery jog in
More experienced? Then you can do longer intervals. The longest being 5
minutes is the general belief. Of course, when you do longer intervals,
your recovery jogs should be longer in between as well.
As a general
rule of thumb: make sure the total distance spent running at interval
speed in your workout is about 3 miles / 5k maximum.
So, for example, 12 x 400m intervals or 5 x 1k. Not 10 x 1k.
Why not? It's quite simple. When you want to do way more
mileage, it will become increasingly difficult and even impossible to
keep on doing the workout at interval speed. You'll simply get too
tired and slow down.
It's really about the quality of the workout. Your interval workout
doesn't get better from more intervals. It gets better from doing the
intervals at the right speed.
So, don't do endless intervals thinking you are getting
better. Your speed will suffer.
Making Your Intervals A Little More
When you have done interval sessions before with a simple stopwatch as
your tool, you would have experienced that same restless feeling that I
used to get. Constantly looking at the watch. Is it time to change pace
Now I have been able to make my intervals a lot more comfortable with
The Gymboss interval timer registers not one time, but two.
So suppose you are doing an interval session in which you run 4 minutes
and then jog 3 minutes.
Then you simply enter those times in the Gymboss, attach it to your
pants / shorts and start running.
As soon as one of those periods ends you get notified.
This happens via a beeping sound (soft or hard) and/or a vibration.
Then you simply change pace until you get notified again.
It is so simple, but what a difference it makes! You do not have to
look at your watch anymore. You can just concentrate on doing the work. It
has helped make my interval sessions a lot less restless.
I now always
use the Gymboss when I do my intervals. It's very
cheap. Worth its price of one workout, let alone if intervals are a
regular part of your exercise routine!
Click here for more information about
the Gymboss interval timer.
Interval Running Workouts I Do
I prefer the 10K and the half marathon.
For those races I usually run 800 to 1500 metre intervals.
I let the distance vary each week.
Somehow I feel that is right.
I don't want my body to get used to the same interval distance.
Many runners do 400-metre intervals. Sure, add them in occassionally,
but even for 5K-race-preparation I suggest to go a bit longer than
that. 400 metres is so short!
A longer effort resembles better what you have to go through in a race.
Now, some of this is already mentioned above, but just "ramming the
message home"... :)... the key rules I follow when doing my interval workouts
Vary the distance from week to week;
don't always do 400m intervals. Don't always do 800m intervals. Vary
Make sure the intervals are a maximum of
about five minutes in length. You can't do a 10 minute
interval. It simply means you are going too slow. An interval workout needs to be so taxing that you can't do much more of five
minutes of running at a time.
Make sure the total length of the speed
workout is about 5k in length (just over 3 miles). Again,
doing an interval running workout is taxing. Make the speed part of the
workout much longer will simply make your intervals slower. These
workouts are about quality, not quantity.
Make sure the speed in the first
interval is equal to the speed in the last interval. This is
very important. Don't run the first interval like a madman, and then
slow down by a few seconds or more every consecutive interval. Try to
keep speed as even as possible throughout the intervals.
Do one interval workout per week, max.
There are periods in training when I don't do any interval running. But
when I do I virtually always limit it to one workout per week. Note
that this is a function of the running I do. I like 10k and half
marathon races. For those, I think, one interval session per week is
plenty. You could do more if you run very short races.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Because it is faster than easy pace, a good
warm-up and cool-down are needed for an interval workout.
So, make sure you check out the article on Most
Important Running Stretches (click pic below). It contains
good stretches and more
information about warming ups and cooling downs.
And of course, for plenty more tips you really need to check
out all the other information in the running training
After all, interval speed is only one of the running speeds
available to you; for races 10k and up I'd also argue it's probably the
least important speed! So,
make sure you read the following pages as well:
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