The FIRST key run you should be doing each week if you want to run faster is interval training. This is the run you are going to LOVE to HATE. To be honest, this is the run that you are going to want to get over with.
I always do this run on Monday or Tuesday…because once it’s over, it’s no longer hanging over my head for the rest of the week. Don’t get me wrong…the other two runs are also challenging, but compared to this, they kinda feel like a breeze.
But this is also the run that you will finish and feel like a total rock star. You will run FASTER than you thought you could possibly run. And guess what this run will do to your overall confidence? It will send it through the roof.
I remember the first time I really started doing serious intervals. I couldn’t believe how fast my legs could go. Arms were flailing, it wasn’t pretty. But I did it. And I kept doing it week after week, and I’m convinced that my first run of the week each week is what finally got me to Boston.
Are you a number nerd like me? This run will improve your VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption), running speed, and running economy.
So what is this key run to which I sing such glorious praise? The run I only love once it’s over? This, my friend, is interval training. First, let me tell you WHY you need intervals if you want to run faster.
- Intervals train the cardio system and muscular systems to efficiently absorb, deliver, and utilize oxygen while removing waste products, such as carbon dioxide, lactic acid, etc.
- Intervals improve fast twitch muscles
- Intervals give you better running form
- Intervals teach patience (I keep hoping this will carry over to real life…if I can run a 400 meter all-out interval, I can surely take a deep breath when I want to yell!)
- What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
So what is interval training? Interval training means running for a short, intense period. You run a specific distance at a specific FAST pace with a specific recovery.
FOR EXAMPLE: if you’re running on a track, you might run 400 meters (equal to 1/4 mile…or 1 time around the track) 10 times. Your goal for each 400 meter interval might be 90 seconds, with a 90 second recovery in between.
Does that make sense? Many coaches call these TRACK REPEATS. But they don’t have to be done on a track. You want to do this run somewhere that is FLAT and MEASURED. A High School track is 400 meters around. You could also run on a path, measured road, or a grass field. A track or softer terrain is better.
Quite honestly, I’m even a big fan of doing interval training on a treadmill. I can set the treadmill to the exact pace I’m aiming for. When a track isn’t an option, don’t forget the treadmill.
When you’re training for a marathon, most of your intervals will be between 800 meters (TWICE around the track…½ mile) and 2000 meters (FIVE times around the track…1 ¼ mile). If you’re training for shorter distances, your intervals will be shorter (800 meters and down).
Don’t wait until you are fully recovered to start the next interval. You need to keep your blood lactate levels fairly constant. Don’t worry about all the scientific wording. Just don’t fully recover before pushing hard again.
Here are a few examples of interval workouts/track repeats to get you started:
- Long interval: 3 x 1600 (run 1600 meters…that is 1 mile…3 times) Recover: 400 RI (your recovery interval is 400 meters…that is ¼ mile…after each mile)
- Long interval: 4 x 800 (run 800 meters…that is ½ mile…4 times) Recover: 2 minutes RI (rest interval after each ½ mile)
- Short Interval: 10 x 400 (run 400 meters…that is ¼ mile…10 times) Recover: 400 RI (rest interval is 400 meters…same distance as fast interval)
The above examples are REPEATS. They are repetitions of the same speed and same distance. You will learn PATIENCE and MUSCLE MEMORY…GREAT for goal pace!
You can also do LADDERS. With ladders, your distance and pace may vary, starting at a shorter distance, climbing up, then coming back down. These are TOUGH. Here’s an example:
- 800, 800, 1600, 1600, 800, 800 (This means ½ mile, ½ mile, 1 mile, 1 mile, ½ mile, ½ mile)
- Rest Intervals: 3 minutes after the ½ ’s, and 4 minutes after the miles.
You should know that if you are a newbie, you will build up to these workouts. Some of my FAVORITE workouts that build up to these intense intervals include strides and fartleks.
Try it out. Watch how fast your legs can go!
Let me know what your favorite interval workouts are? Do you prefer running on a track, or treadmill? Let me know in the comments! And check out the other runs you should be doing each week if you want to run faster!
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