Interval Training for Running

Interval training is an effective workout for runners wanting to increase their speed, endurance, and strength, especially before a competition. However, interval sessions can also benefit any kind of runner who wants to make the most of their running technique.

The exercises involved in interval training are centred on bursts of exertion interspersed with periods of rest in between. The same principles are used in most sports requiring bursts of speed, like cycling, soccer, basketball, hockey, tennis and rugby.

Interval training isn’t the latest modern-day fitness fad. It has been around since the 1930s when physiologist Hans Reindell of Germany’s Freiburg University and coach Waldemar Gerschler started using it to train German athletes. It’s still around because it still works.

Benefits of Interval Training

Over the years, fans of interval training (backed by studies) claim the following benefits from this type of training:

  • Faster calorie-burn
  • Shorter workout times for the same results
  • Feelings of well-being thanks to endorphins produced during intense activity
  • Increased speed and stamina
  • Improved cardiovascular efficiency

Importantly, interval training also helps runners who feel they’ve plateau-ed to continue improving, thus combating frustration and boredom.

If you want to reap the benefits of interval training, here are some suggestions, tailor-made according to what you want to achieve.

Prep for a 5K Event

If you can comfortably run 5km but you have your first official event coming up, a burst of speed is just what you need come race day. Try this classic exercise to ensure you’ve got enough in the tank to carry you across the finish line.

This exercise, known as ‘’fartlek’’ has been around for decades and is a Swedish technique for ensuring you have a burst of speed handy when needed. In fact, the name means ‘speed play’.  This is how it works:

  • Start your session with a 10-minute warm up
  • Pick a point between 30 seconds and 3 minutes ahead
  • Run up to your mark at a comfortably tough pace
  • Turn around and jog back slowly until you’ve recovered your breath
  • Repeat the exercise for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Cool down for 10 minutes

Increase your short race speed

What’s holding you back from improving your 5k or 10k time? Waste build-up in your muscles, that’s what. This workout helps to increase the oxygen flow to your body and train it to metabolize these substances faster. Here’s the drill:

  1. Warm up for 10 minutes
  2. Run 400m at your usual 5k race pace
  3. Jog slowly for 30 seconds
  4. Repeat step 1 to 3 a total of 12 times
  5. Cool off for 10 minutes

If you’re targeting a 10km race, do 16 repetitions at your usual 10K pace instead.

Build Strength

Age and inactivity can weaken your muscles, robbing you of your power, speed and strength. Get your go back with short, super-fast intervals.

  • Warm up for 3 to 6km at an easy jog
  • Run 3x100m, resting for two minutes in between
  • Then Run 3x150m, resting in between
  • To finish, run another 3x100m, resting after each exertion
  • Cool down for 10 minutes

It’s important to supplement these exercises with weekly gym strength sessions.

Up Your Endurance

If you’ve mastered the shorter races and have a half or full marathon in your sights, this exercise will help to ease the transition. It helps you to increase how far you can run before you start to break down.

  • Warm up for 10 minutes
  • Run 3x1600m or 3x800m at a 5 or 10k pace
  • Recover in between by jogging for half the amount of time it took you to do the repetitions
  • Cool down for 10 minutes

Increase the number of repetitions every 2 weeks until you can comfortably run about 8 km in a session.

How to Recover Effectively

The recovery period in between intervals of exertion is an important aspect of interval training and can also be customized according to your aims.

Standing in between reps alleviates the stress and impact on  your joints and works best for speed and strength interval training.

Walking brings your heart rate down and keeps your blood flowing to clear waste products between exertions. Walking is the best recovery tactic for novice runners.

Jogging fits in best with slower-paced interval training and serves to keep your heart rate elevated. Jogging simulates late race fatigue and helps you clock up a few extra meters during your total workout.

Find Your Running Technique

Does running sound like too much hard work for you? There are plenty of other ways to get and stay fit. Keep reading our blog for more information and ideas about living a healthy balanced and fit life.

Share This