Running interval workouts
Sometimes the best running interval workouts are the ones that can create the least amount of mental resistance.
What do I mean?
It all depends on what type of runner you are but for many runners, arriving to the track can be intimidating.
We worry about hitting splits.
I have set amount of repetitions to complete in a set amount of time.
What happens if I don't run them fast enough? Does that mean I am not in good shape or ready to hit my goal?
Often times we second guess ourselves and place a great deal of stress on our workouts even before they begin.
I wanted to share a few running interval workouts that I have used in my own training that I hope can help alleviate the stress you may be feeling in training.
Top runners can get stressed out too
It doesn't matter what level you are currently at, keep in mind that runners at my level or above my capability can, at times, worry too much.
I think it is normal to feel a sense of uncertainty at times, just as long as it does not become chronic or begin to affect your daily life.
You put in the maximum amount of mileage and work you can possibly manage week in and week out and still wonder if you have done enough.
The best way to overcome this is to always think of training as the hard part and racing as the fun aspect of it all.
Training should always be far harder then any race will ever be and this should always be used as a confidence booster going into a race.
It takes the edge off of having to worry about if you are ready for your performance.
The Kenyans make it look easy in their races because they have trained for such a long time at such a high anaerobic level that racing almost seems automatic and most, if not all, use the very same running interval workouts mentioned in this post.
Which is how you want it to be.
Here are a few running interval workouts you can use in your training to help spice up your schedule in 2014 and beyond.
1. 5-10×30 second repeats on the treadmill at a 3% grade
Short enough that it won't overly tax you but the 3% grade will challenge you and get you out of the flat land mindset.
The great runners of the past who were coached by Arthur Lydiard always implemented hills into their training.
This is a great way to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers that will assist you in great oxygen capacity when you will need it most in the future.
Easy running cannot create this physiological effect, only fast, anaerobic running.
You don't necessarily have to run on a treadmill to do this.
Find a descent sized hill that takes anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds to sprint up near your home.
Sprint going up focusing on knee lift and arm swing going up, easy walk back down for recovery.
You can begin jogging back down for recovery as your fitness improves.
2. 5-30x1min hard followed by 1 minute easy
There is nothing that can take the place of hard, fartlek running interval workouts.
It breaks up the monotony of regular sustained efforts and keeps training interesting.
I have used this type of fartlek countless times over the years and it works.
Fartlek is simply changing up the speeds at which you run just as it is in a race.
You will always be challenged in a race and being able to alternate the paces you are running at will add to your strength by using these running interval workouts.
You have to teach yourself to react to pace changes in training so that when you experience it in the race you will be able to sustain the effort with no added stress.
3. 6x1mile repeats on the track with lessening rest as fitness builds
This is one of the top workouts Lisa Rainsberger had me doing in colorado springs, colorado when I was training for the 2007 California International Marathon.
It is an extremely demanding workout in that you are spending anywhere from 4 minutes to 6 minutes at very high anaerobic heart rates (165 or higher)
This is what you want.
The body has to be taught to handle ever increasing amounts of lactic acid building up in the blood stream.
These workouts teach the body to continue to convert lactic acid to energy.
We begin to slow down when the body can no longer convert lactic acid to energy so muscle functioning is lessened and we have to decrease the speed we are running at.
The problem is in order to increase our body's ability to offset this from happening we have to deal with the pain of the workout.
The body will adapt to any stress you place on it but patience is vital.
Jack Hazen, my collegiate coach and the 2012 London Olympic Games head mens and women's distance coach, told all of us who competed for Malone University, that it takes approximately 3 weeks or 21 days for the body to adapt to the stress we place on it.
This is why early on in your training every workout seems to feel as though you are in an all-out effort but as time goes by it feels easier and easier.
Training for the cross-country season we would always do mile repeats on the grass starting the season at 85% of our max mile effort.
We would spend three weeks at this effort, then move on to 88%, then 91% and lastly spend three weeks running at 94% of our max mile effort.
Everything was based on a systematic, long-term approach for our running success and the NCAA National Cross Country Championships was the end state.
4. 10x1K hard followed by 1 K easy
This is another great workout, especially for longer distance specialist who have interest in the 10K to marathon.
I usually aim to run the hard segments at a heart rate of between 168-73 beats per minute (anaerobic threshold) with the ‘easy' segments run at a heart rate of between 150-160 beats per minute.
World-renowned exercise physiologist and one of my mentors, Dr. Joe Vigil, has stated that when racing in a marathon our heart rates usually sit right at 168 to 175 beats per minute.
This is what is termed as the Anerobic Threshold, the point where lactic acid begins to accumulate in our bodies.
The key in doing these workouts is that you have practiced that race pace effort in training so that you can feel in control, almost as if you are on autopilot in the race.
These examples of running interval workouts should only be implemented in your weekly training after you have layer a strong mileage foundation.
They are extremely physically and mentally demanding so always ensure to lay a strong base before trying them in your training program.
This is a total of 12 miles of interval work and one of the toughest running interval workouts that I do.
I have found that this workout assisted me in dropping my marathon best from 2.40.02 to 2.19.35 and can do wonders for your own racing.
5. 10x2minutes hard followed by 1 minute easy
I have used this workout quite a bit in my run up to next weekends Houston Marathon.
I find that I can cover about 6 miles or right around a 5 minute per mile pace when I am at my fittest when doing this type of workout.
I aim to get my heart rate up to close to 175 beats per minute on the ‘hard' segments and drop it slightly to 160-65 beats per minute on the ‘easy' segments.
Running at a heart rate of 175 beats per minute or higher is more of a VO2 Max or Aerobic Capacity effort.
This is running at near maximum effort and should only be aimed for after you have gained an enormous amount of fitness and have put in the adequate amount of mileage.
The ‘easy' segment is not what I would consider ‘easy' either.
Your pace will slow to only about 20-30 seconds per mile at the easy effort as it is at the hard effort so you are still running quite hard.
These forms of running interval workouts will create a physiological boost and give you added motivation leading into your goal race.
You will super compensate meaning you will come back 48 hours in better shape then we you began the workouts the few days prior.
I hope these running interval workouts will add to your fitness, help you run with more confidence and assist you in setting new personal bests in the near future.
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