How to Run Intervals

We read everywhere new studies surfacing what we should probably already know. Interval training leads to greater weight loss versus steady state training. Also, you can achieve the same or better results with less time per session. Now I love my 45-60 minutes of cardio (running/elliptical) at 60-80 % of max heart rate. It’s comfortable, but it also yeilds results (ie weight loss, changes in body composition) much slower. I think I hold a secret contempt for intervals because of high school and college sports scarring of being forced to run them da after day, but I guess I will just have to get over it. (sad face)

Moving on, literally and physically (smiley face), it occurred to me today that others who have not had interval training driven into their skull may not know how to go about beginning this type of workout. So here is a beginners course on running intervals.

An interval is defined as a length of time. I use the length of 1 minute (or 2 if I am feeling brave). Now the length of time you choose is broken into two phases or sections. Let’s call them run and rest. First, choose the amount of time for each. Your rest phase should be at least twice as long as your run phase. Three times as long is better. I usually use 15 seconds for my run phase and 45 sec for my rest phase. The run phase pace should be just about an all out sprint. Usually I count to 12 (quietly but out loud) while glancing down at the timer on my iPod from time to time. Let’s say you started your run at 5:05 (after a 5 minute warmup. That’s important!). You would run/sprint until 5:00:15 and then rest/walk until 5:01:00. Continue this for about 20-30 minutes. At least half the time you spend on steady state cardio. And that’s really it. There are certain variables I like to play with to keep it fresh and fun.

1. Length of run/rest phases. Try 10/50 or 30/90
2. Activity of run/rest phases. Try stairs/calisthenics or hills/downhills.
3. Location: high school tracks (open to public usually at night or in summer), stadiums (for stair running), parks, gardens, trails. Look for places around your city that have good hills or stairs. There are all sorts of hidden treasures like this in different towns.
4. Break it up. If you have time or have only a little time at the beginning and end of each day, break up your sessions into two 20 minute sessions. Studies have shown that this has just as much fat burning and cardiovascular benefits. Use the time in between to read or stretch (or both).

Despite all the emotional scarring, I’ve found a fresh appreciation for interval training. The short term goals keep me fully engaged moreso than a slow 5 mile run. It challenges me I. A very different way than endurance training. I’ve actually decided to commit to 3 days a week for 30-40 minutes of interval training keeping my one or two endurance cardio days as sort of a reward. Try integrating just a couple of these workouts into your routine each week, I promise you will see greater results!

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