Interval Running

I am a high school cross country runner. We run one 5K race per week on the average (Usually on Thursdays). My coach used to make us run intervals the night before our meets. However, our legs and bodies were SO fatigued that it was very difficult to relax and feel comfortable while running the races.

I, personally, would throw up trying to push myself hard in the races the day after we ran intervals. This REALLY didn't seem to be the best training tactic???

This year, instead of running intervals the day before our competitive meets, our coach makes us run intervals the day AFTER our meets. Our legs and bodies are still very tired the day after a meet --- is this when intervals should be run?

I have been told by experienced runners that intervals should only be run when your body has been well rested, so you can "give it your all" when you are running them (that's the concept behind intervals --- which helps to make you a stronger and faster runner)!

They have told me that running intervals the day before a race and the day after are the worst days to run them because either you waste your energy for the race the day before or your legs/body have not recovered enough after the day of the race which defeats the whole idea of interval training.

Please let me know when you think it is best to run intervals. My guess is that Monday would be the best day to run intervals, as we are well-rested from the weekend. I'm confused and frustrated.



Answer by Dominique:

Hi Scott,
Thanks for your running training question.
I can see you are frustrated!

Running training is best done using a hard/easy approach. This means that hard and easy days are alternated.

Hard days are for your special training, e.g. tempo running, long run, interval running. And for races.

Easy days are for easy runs (runs at a pace at which you are able to have a conversation), cross-training or complete rest.

When it is really necessary back-to-back hard days are possible, but this should really be avoided (as a general rule). When I run a race I usually take a rest day the day afterwards, or go for a short easy run to help my legs get rid of the muscle pains.

Although your coach probably has the best intentions in mind, running intervals either the day before or the day after races is absolutely not ideal, something you have experienced first hand.
And it is exactly for the reasons you mentioned.
Running them the day before the race makes it impossible to run fast in your race.
Running them the day after will not serve any value because you can't run them at the speed and with the intensity that is necessary.

If I were you, I'd kindly ask your coach to consider changing your running program a bit. He is doing his best for you guys, so try to be gentle.
You could refer him to this page and some articles in my running training section.
What could also be a good idea is to get Daniels' Running Formula which contains all the theory behind different types of running and templates for optimal running programs. A must-have running training book. The running programs are very tailored towards high school racing (they take into account frequent/weekly races).

Also make sure you and your coach read my interval running page.

OK, best of luck with approaching your coach and your running!

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