Interval training

Am I the only one in finding interval training really tough?

I have been doing 6x400m runs and also 5x3min runs as part of a Runkeeper training course and it has been lungs-on-fire brutal especially because the intention is to run these fast,i.e. sprint.

I can't work out whether it is better to run as fast as possible at the start of each interval no matter how slow I end up at the end or to just set a fast pace, above normal running speed, which I try to maintain over the distance/time.....

Can someone please tell me that it is all worth it?!


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23 Replies

  • Intervals are only as difficult as you make them - they are certainly meant to be run at a "pace" - but I don't believe that pace to be a "sprint" . Sprinting is something that you do over 100-200 metres ONCE -- not as a series of repetitions.

    For example - looking at Jack Daniels pace calculator and inputting a time of 35 minutes for a 5 K race as an indicator of my ability/fitness ( I can do a couple of minutes faster than that but I like to train conservatively) , he says that I should intervals at around 6&1/2 minutes per K pace for 1000 Metre intervals ( and pro-rata for shorter intervals) . This is a fair pace to run intervals at - because if I were to run that pace for a complete 5K, it would knock my 5K PB down by a couple of minutes.

    However I could probably sprint at say 5 minutes per K ( over a shorter interval - couldn't "sprint" for 1K!!) - but this is too fast to be doing interval training , at my level of fitness, and would probably eventually hurt me.

    My interval training rate is about 45 seconds per K faster than my "threshold/tempo" pace( which is meant for longer runs of say 1K with a rest afterwards. )

    Sounds to me like you are going at it too hard??

  • Further to the above -- I am intending to shortly start Jack Daniels "Red (Intermediate)" phase of his 64 week "Running for fitness" programme. I reckon that I am already at the end of his first "White" phase - and the first 8 weeks of the next red phase never gets over threshold level pace at all. He doesn't propose doing intervals ( at interval pace) until the last 8 weeks of the 16 week programme. ( by which time, if you were to follow his plans from the very beginning, you would have been running for 32 weeks!! :)

    I would much prefer to follow the recommendations of a trainer like Daniels than follow some short plan ( run 10K in 6 weeks, etc) from Runkeeper. I am currently almost at the end of such a programme - but the pace to reach 10K has been EASY all the way.

  • Hmmm. Seems like I am pushing myself too hard again. Looking at the last set of 3min intervals and discounting the first as it was downhill, I am running at 5:41, 5:26, 5:32 and 5:49 mins/km. My normal running pace is circa 6:20 to 6:30 although I can run 5km in under 30 mins if I really push it.

    I do find myself slowing down towards the end of the interval so clearly this is not the right way to do it. I think I will investigate both the Jack Daniels training programmes and the Guardian calculator and also try to drop the pace back to 6m/km as I know I can just about maintain that over 5km if I have to.

    Thanks for the advice Bazza!

  • Hmm - perhaps you aren't all that far from the money after all.

    If you do a Google search for this file danielstables3-00-00.xls , you will find a Microsoft Excel file which (if you have the MS programme) you can enter into the spreadsheet 30 minutes for a 5K - and you will see that Daniels Intervals are of the order of 5mins 46 seconds for you. But still - 20 seconds per K is a fair bit of difference - that is almost 2 minutes perK difference, which is a lot to cut off a 5K PB.

  • Wow. I am now looking at a rather complete / complex spreadsheet! I think I get it. I am looking at the "Intervals Split Times" table and it says 5:45 on the LHS. Not sure what 'Repetition' and 'Threshold' represent though.

    Thanks for the speadsheet. I will spend some time reading through the instructions I think. The good thing is that I have yesterday put in an order for a HRM so perhaps I will be able to get more focused in my training from here on.

  • Jack Daniels book has 1452 pages :) but in a nutshell , here is a very brief description of the 5 training intensities he uses

    I think using a HRM is good - however my observation has been that most people soon see that they are training at intensities much higher than what they are supposed to . It is a little difficult to come to grips with. I did a long run last week and kept my HR within a range of 120-130 ( bearing in mind that I do not know my maximum HR and am guessing that it is somewhere form 150-160) - to keep my HR in that range I had to run EXTREMELY slowly.

  • As Bazza says, intervals should be fast, but not a sprint. I use the Guardian Guide to Running Intervals podcast and that has 15 x 1 minute intervals. The coach says if you find you slow down on the later intervals you are going too fast. You need to learn to pace yourself to be able to complete all the intervals. I didn't manage this the first few times I did the podcast, but now I can, with making sure I don't go 'all out'.

    I use the Good Running Guide training pace calculator, and for my 5K time, this suggests I should run 1 minute intervals at 5:20 (mins/km). I know I can sprint faster than that, but intervals are for practicing repeatedly managing to hit the desired fast pace.

    Even so, I find intervals hard work. If they weren't hard, my body would not be improving. I only do intervals once a fortnight, alternating the next week's hard run, with hill training.

  • Thanks swanscot. As per my reply to Bazza above I am fairly sure I am trying too hard again. I will try to pace the 3m intervals at 6m/km and if I can maintain that speed throughout the session then see if I can up it a bit from then in the following sessions. The moment I start not being able to maintain the pace will be the point at which I don't try to go faster.

    Thanks for the advice.

  • This is good thinking - regardless of what these pace calculations recommend ( according to your fitness as suggested by a recent race time) , the object of any stated training regime is to finish the task set. I keep on saying that I suspect that we "C25K graduates" often overestimate our fitness levels

  • I have just started running intervals, and am starting with 100m fast, 300m slower x7 or so. I plan to gradually up the amount of faster running (150m, 250m) and then maybe up the number of repetitions. You are allowed to have ultra-short intervals, or so I've been told!

  • I am fairly new to it too Hose, so all this guidance is really helping.

  • As you are only setting fire to your lungs its obviously not working. Wait until you start throwing up and feel as if your legs have been amputated. Sounds like its hurting bad so it should be working. If you are pushing to some degree during the full time and distance then you are doing it right. Have you tried setting yourself goals - time how long it takes to run each 400 metres or how far you can run in 3 minutes. It sounds like a really punishing schedule its the type of training the top middle distance runners adhere to.

    I believe Steve Cram used to do 10 X 400 metres repetitions with the criteria being the time taken to complete each one.

  • > "Wait until you start throwing up..."

    Ha! One time I complained to my hillrunning son that during my intervals run I'd felt I was going to be sick. He said I hadn't tried hard enough unless I actually WAS sick!

  • Hmmm. I think I draw the line at throwing up. :) I would rather train hard but not quite to that point!

  • When I did some fast 3 ks I did run faster at the start as I knew I'd be finished before 3 k was up so I'd get it in first. Try it out to see if it works for you

  • That works when running distances but not when running time intervals unfortunately. Thanks for the tip though.

  • Bear in mind, as someone mentioned to me yesterday, Usain Bolt sprints for less than 10 seconds, never mind 'just' a minute followed by several more minute intervals.

    So bearing that in mind, next time I do Speed my slow running will be my normal pace and the fast running will be a bit quicker.

    Don't think sprinting or going too fast is the answer.

    :-) xx

  • I have read that there are two types of training - the first type is the "no pain , no gain" based philosophy. The second is the "no gain if you have pain" philosophy . If you read any of (Dr) Phil Maffetones writings, he claims that the first type works well -- but it commonly leads to exhaustion which then leads to lowered immune system and then sickness. Apparently the most successful athletes are not those who train harder -- but those who continue training without needing breaks due to injury and/or illness.

    Interesting recent article here relevant to the above

  • Bazza, has anyone ever told you that you are font of all running knowledge?! Clearly I have some detailed reading to do between runs now! Thanks mate.

  • Doesn't help me run any faster !! :) In fact, just of late I seem to be running slower, fitness seems to be going backwards and putting on weight!!!

  • To answer your question, no you're not the only one who finds intervals tough!!! And that's the way it should be-how else are we going to improve our fitness and speed? I'm amazed at the number of 'does it get any easier?' type posts on this forum. If you want to progress then it gets different, not easier and requires commitment and hard graft. For me, embracing just how tough running can and should be was a real Eureka! moment.

    Also (and with all due respect to the other posters in this thread), short sprints can be safe and useful, forming an integral part of high intensity interval training (HIIT)-a killer twist on normal intervals. Try it with your local running club sometime-the pain is exquisite.

  • Thanks Michael. I am not afraid of commitment, hard graft or pain, but want to make sure that the effort is worth it. As mentioned earlier I am relatively new to interval training and was really trying to find out whether I was doing it correctly and what benefits others have found. I am certainly not planning on giving up but against the range of other types of running I think it is worth knowing where and when interval training best fits as part of an overall training plan.

  • Me too-every second counts in my book. Talking of which, I've just started reading Running Faster, by Brad Hudson. I'm only a few chapters in but it's a great read so far.

    Regarding the intervals, I've found them much easier since I joined a running club. It's given me some affirmation that I'm training the right way and sharing the pain seems to make this running lark more bearable as well. Something for you to consider, perhaps.

    Anyway, good luck to you and to us all.

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