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The Perfect Running Interval

  • By Mackenzie Lobby
  • Published Feb 25, 2014
Photo: iStock

High-intensity interval sessions are key for boosting fitness. Here’s how to work them into your training.

While endurance buffs often revel in long, slow runs, any good training regimen will also include some high-intensity sessions. This often comes in the form of interval training, which can create significant jumps in fitness. “Ultimately, as endurance athletes, we want to be able to sustain as fast a speed as possible over the duration of our events,” says Krista A. Schultz, an exercise physiologist and triathlon coach for Endurance Works in Boulder, Colo. “Proper training including workouts aimed at increasing speed will improve one’s lactate threshold (LT), the point at which lactate is produced at such a rapid rate it cannot be cleared. The benefit of interval training is that it helps us increase our LT.”

New research offers insight into the ideal length of the intervals themselves, as well as how to best recover. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic pulled together 37 separate studies on interval training and VO2max to get a clearer picture of what scientists collectively know about interval training. They identified 3–5-minute intervals as being the most effective.

Another recent study out of Great Britain examined the recovery piece. While some coaches favor complete rest between intervals, this research revealed that active recovery was more effective in clearing metabolites from the muscles. This, in turn, allows athletes to recover faster between high-intensity bouts when they keep moving, which also likely leads to better performance during those subsequent intervals. “Running easy or jogging between intervals will help clear lactic acid quicker because it is being reused as fuel at a faster rate when you’re moving around,” Schultz says.

The next time you’re headed to the track or trail for some high-intensity training, consider the following workouts. Start with workout 1 before graduating to 2 and 3. Keep in mind that intervals should not be performed all-out. This means that it should feel difficult, but you shouldn’t be sprinting. The point of these workouts is to be able to do multiple intervals, not crash and burn after the first couple.

RELATED: Interval Workouts To Try On The Track

Interval Workout 1
- Warm up 10 min
- 5×3 min at 5K pace
- Jog easy for 3 min between each
- Cool down 10 min

Interval Workout 2
- Warm up 10 min
- 4×4 min at 5K pace
- Jog easy for 2 min between each
- Cool down 10 min

Interval Workout 3
- Warm up 10 min
- 4×5 min at 5K pace
- Jog easy 2:30 between each
- Cool down 10 min

RELATED: Should I Do Intervals During Ironman Training?

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FILED UNDER: Run / Training

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