Interval training and why all runners will benefit

Most of us have heard about interval training but if you’re an everyday runner rather than an elite athlete do you need to bother? The answer could surprise you.

Interval training involves inserting high intensity bursts of speed into your runs. It teaches runners to reach out of their comfort zone and gives them the confidence and ability to overtake, pick up their pace and sprint to the finish line. “Interval training pushes runners and they end up really surprised with what they can achieve”, says Runlab founder and trainer Vlad Shratov.

Other benefits can include an improvement in cardiovascular fitness, anaerobic capacity (the ability to keep going when gasping for breath) and the ability to consume oxygen. Even better, if performed properly, this style of training can reap significant benefits in a short space of time – as little as six weeks. You can even be your own body mechanic, here's how

Here, Vlad provides tips on how you can introduce interval training into your exercise regime.

Warming up and goals

  • To get started complete a solid warm-up jog to ensure your first interval has the best chance of being the same speed as the last.
  • Aim to run each of the intervals at a consistent effort and pace.
  • Keep track of your interval times and longer runs – both should improve.

Interval training in action

  • On the track: Sprint for 300 m then jog to recover for 100 m. Try four reps when starting out and try to work your way up to ten.
  • Out with a group: Try ‘crocodiles’, run in a line and take turns sprinting from the back to the front.
  • On the oval: Jog out to a tree or marker 300–400 m away and then sprint back to the start as fast as possible, repeating three to eight times.
  • On the treadmill: Try six rounds of four-minute intervals at the highest intensity you can maintain then jog to recover for one to four minutes.

What not to do

  • Don’t eat too close to the training session – especially anything that is heavy and difficult to digest, liquid calories can be a good alternative in the two hours before training.
  • Don’t partake in interval training on consecutive days as you need to give your body time to recover.
  • Don’t skip your post-training warm-down and stretch, doing so could result in aches and pains.

If you’re feeling game, try introducing at least one interval session a week. And remember, if you don’t change, nothing else will.