Interval Training for Beginners

Photos by Marques Jackson/ Filles Garçons Photography .

Photos by Marques Jackson/Filles Garçons Photography.

Whether you’re new to running or are a seasoned marathon runner, intervals can help you get faster, improve your race times, and make you a stronger runner. Intervals help train your body to perform during times of fatigue and oxygen deficit. This will improve your race performance and help you become a higher level athlete. Also, if you are running to lose weight, intervals burn more calories than slow running, and will help boost your metabolism.

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Often times, beginning runners think that if they run the same speed and distance everyday, they will keep improving. But the truth is, you will plateau and stay at the same running level if you don’t push yourself. Intervals are a great way to test your limits and improve your overall conditioning and speed.

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Here’s how to do a running interval training workout:

  • 0.5 mile warm up. Run slowly for a half mile to warm up. This run should be at a relaxed pace, one at which you could keep up a conversation.

  • Stretch and do drills. Take 10 minutes to stretch and do running form drills to get your muscles warmed up for fast running. This will lessen your chance of injury.

  • Run 400 meters at your goal 5K pace (.25 of a mile on the road or one lap of a standard running track). You can calculate your goal 5K mile pace and then divide the mile time by 4 to get your 400-meter pace. For instance, if your 5K goal is to run 10-minute miles, one fourth of that is 2:30 so 2:30 should be your goal 400 pace.

  • Recover for 400 meters. Jog slowly for one lap (or .25) for active recovery.

  • Repeat the run-recovery cycle for a total of 4 fast spurts and 4 recovery laps (4 x 400 fast and 4 X 400 at slow, recovery speed). This equals 1 mile of intense running and one mile of recovery.

  • 0.5 mile cool down. Run slowly for a half mile to cool down. This run should be at a relaxed pace, one at which you could keep up a conversation.

  • Stretch and do drills. Take 10 minutes to stretch.

  • Rest and rehydrate. It is important to do an easy run the day after a speed workout or take a rest day. Also, rehydrate for optimal muscle recovery.

You can modify this workout to meet the demands of your training program. If you are training to run a half marathon or marathon, for instance, increase your interval distance (and recovery distance) to 800 meter (half mile) intervals. You can also increase your interval amount over time as you build endurance. After two weeks of doing 4 intervals, for example, you can add one more to do 5 intervals. Marathon runners can build up to running ten 800-meter intervals for speed training.

I recommend doing speed workouts twice a week, or a minimum of once a week, if you want to get faster and really improve your running performance. In addition to intervals, tempo runs are another great speed workout you can add into your training plan to get faster, especially for longer distance races such as marathons.

Marnie Kunz is a RRCA-certified running coach and the creator of Runstreet Art Runs, which bring together communities through running and street art. She is a Brooklyn resident, running coach and writer. She enjoys traveling, art, and eating messily. You can follow her running and events at @Runstreet Instagram and Runstreet Facebook.

Related Posts: Get Faster with Tempo Runs, 3 Track Workouts to Improve Your Race Times, NYC Marathon Tips from the Wolf Pack

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