OMY! Sports News

What makes interval training so effective for runners? And how to perform it the right way?

Classic interval training works like a pendulum— an intense segment is always followed by a very easy one. Let’s get into the details.

Interval training - what is it?

Interval workouts are 200m to 2km stretches performed at a high-intensity level with easy running (or jogging) in between. Intense segments take place at an HR level equal to or higher than your threshold HR. Read more about how to determine your threshold rate here.

What is interval training for?

Such training allows the body to get closer to the limit of functional capabilities and gradually adapt to it. Over time, the number and length of fast segments increase, and the rest periods get shorter. So there is a smooth transfer of speed from short to longer intervals and, as a result, to the target distance. During such training, lactic acid or lactate is actively produced. Processing of lactate determines your ability to maintain high speed for a long time. Read more about lactate and its measurement here.

How to do interval training correctly?

Start your interval training with a warm-up. 1–2 km of easy running will allow the muscles to warm up and prepare for speed. At the end of the warm-up, you should not be tired, but rather energized before the main intense part of the workout. Do your favorite ABCs (running exercises) and a couple of 50–100m sprints to get your breath in before a series of intervals. Walk or jog lightly between each exercise or speed up.
Have a rest for 2–3 minutes, tune in to an intense block, and start running accelerations. The scheme is as follows: fast section — jog/walk — fast section — jog/walk.
After completing a series of intervals, give yourself 3 minutes of rest — stop, catch your breath, and let the body calm down a bit. After that, run slowly for 1 km to allow the muscles to partially process the accumulated lactate.

What to look for when doing interval training?

We describe fast sections within interval training in terms of pace, not heart rate — that is, in minutes per km (for cycling, we use power). Why is that? In short intervals, the pulse does not have time to catch up. It is also extremely difficult to control HR during a fast run. So the focus is on pace. Recovery intervals, on the other hand, rely on the HR. They are practically very slow jogging. At the end of each recovery section, your heart rate should drop to 120–130 beats. Adjust this by speed on the recovery sections — if necessary, just walk.

How to correctly measure the pace at fast intervals?

Running fast and constantly looking at your watch is not very convenient. It is better to control your pace by using running stadium marks. How to do it?
  • The first track of a 400-meter stadium consists of 4 segments of 100 m each — 100 m straight, 100 m turn, 100 m straight, 100 m turn. Each of the segments is separated from the next by a marking line on the coating. Pay attention to these lines in advance while you are warming up.
  • Let’s say that you need to run several 300-meter intervals at a pace of 4:30 min/km. Turn the pace from minutes to seconds. In this case, it is 270 seconds per 1 km (4 * 60 + 30 = 270) or 27 seconds per 100 meters.
  • Starting to run from one of the corners of the stadium, you should run to the next point in 27 seconds. To do this, use the Lap function on your watch.
  • The Lap function works like a stopwatch. Press Lap at the beginning of the interval and every time you cross the next 100m mark. Take a quick look at your watch and adjust your pace if it’s outside of 27 seconds. At the end of the interval, also press lap.
  • Apple the same calculation and running principle to any other lengths of intervals.

How to measure HR if there is no heart rate monitor?

If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, measure it with your hand on your neck (carotid artery). Put your finger on it and count the number of beats in 10 seconds, and then multiply the resulting value by 6. For example, 22 beats in 10 seconds is 132 beats per minute. Rest a little more and you can start the next interval.
We wish you productive interval training!