Interval Training - How to get Started
by Graeme Hilditch
Intervals Training for beginners
The phrase ‘interval run’ or ‘interval training’ has long put the fear of God into many a new runner, who has been (falsely) led to believe that these sessions are more painful than childbirth and a darn sight less enjoyable.
Interval running is, quite simply, a form of training whereby you increase the intensity of your run – by running up a hill or upping your pace for a short period of time, followed by a period of light recovery jogging or walking.
This sequence is repeated a number of times over a given distance or time.
For example, an interval training session might involve an easy jog for 5 minutes to warm up, followed by a run at 75–80 per cent of your maximum running speed for 60 seconds, followed by a recovery walk for 2-3 minutes. This is then repeated eight to ten times.
Whereas it might be true that for those runners who are keen to finish the race in a fast time, performing repeated and intense interval runs can be quite unpleasant, it doesn’t have to be that way for everyone.
Interval runs can be performed at a variety of intensities and needn’t be so difficult and vomit inducing as to put you off running for life.
Make them fun
Interval training can in fact be a great way to break away from a conventional steady-paced run and add welcome variety to your weekly training schedule. Yes, they can be fun!
Some runners actually enjoy interval runs more than steady paced sessions, as the hard work goes in short bursts followed by an enforced walking recovery period.
Although interval runs are not essential, especially if you are not looking to break any land-speed records for the race, I strongly suggest you perform one interval session a week as part of your training regime.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be lung busting – just fast enough that it makes you work a bit harder than you do during an easy-paced jog.
The question many runners new to interval training ask, is “How hard should my interval runs be?”
You need to get familiar with your Rate of Perceived Exertion -RPE
RPE - The key to Interval Training
To get the most out of interval training and ensure you run each interval at the right pace, you need to think what you “Rate of Perceived Exertion” is during each interval.
Most interval sessions you read about in magazines and books suggest what your R.P.E. should be during each run.
Although some R.P.E. scales work on a rating of 1-20, the 1-10 scale is far easier to understand and relate to.
The RPE scale is an ascending scale of intensity, where:
R.P.E. 1 - is an intensity that is equivalent to sitting down doing nothing
R.P.E. 3 - a very light jogging pace
R.P.E. 5 - steady pace than is generally considered to be your “comfortable” pace.
R.P.E. 7 - A tempo pace and one which is manageable, but pretty tough.
R.P.E. 10 -An all out sprint and a pace you can only sustain for a short period of time
Armed with this information, you can then head out and take on a range of interval sessions, sticking to the suggested R.P.E and not worry that you’re going too fast or too slow.
Our Favourite Interval Sessions
There are dozens and dozens of interval training sessions that you can do to improve your fitness, but at GH Training we like to keep things simple.
So, take a look at the table below and choose a session that you fancy taking trying out.
If you are new to running, our suggestion is that you begin with short distance interval session - such as 400m or 800m and then build up the distance to mile intervals.
Remember, stick to the suggested R.P.E and you’ll avoid burning out too soon.
Learn to love Intervals
Initially, interval sessions will be a bit of a shock to the system.
You are running outside of your comfort zone, breathing harder than you’re used to and on the edge of finding the training intensity possible.
Overtime however, you’ll find that interval training can be incredibly addictive - especially when you notice how effective they are at improving your running efficiency, tolerance and speed.
Always be cautious with pacing however and if in doubt, run your intervals slower than you think.
It’s always far better to run a series of intervals at a slightly slower pace, than overcook them and end up exhausted by the half way point and find that you are out of energy.
If you’ve got any tips for other runners on interval training or have recently discovered how they have held you improve your fitness, leave a comment below.
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