Getting Faster with Interval Training
by: Eric Brown
There are many and varied ways of getting faster and they all use the principle of overload, rest and adaption. In this article I will attempt to outline some of the basics in one of the most commonly used methods - Interval Training.
Breakdowns, Ladders, Pyramids, Up/Down the clock. These are some of the varied terminology used to describe interval training. The one thing they all have in common is that you run for a specific distance or a Specific Period of time: this is the interval of running. More than likely you will do this more than once. Several intervals are referred to as repetitions. After each running interval a specified recovery time is taken. When a group of intervals are run, with the specified recovery between, this is called a set. The rest between sets is typically longer than that taken between intervals within the set. The speed at which you run each interval is referred to as the tempo or pace. It's as simple as that.
So, using the above terminology a training session could be: 10 intervals of 400m at 90sec tempo with a 2min jog between repetitions. This sounds a bit long winded so, using coaches' short hand this could be written as: 10 x 400 @ 90s 2min jog. Another session may be a series of high tempo runs. The first lasting 4min, the second lasting 3min, the third lasting 2min and finishing off with 4 x 1min runs. The first recovery time is 4min, the second 3min, the third 2min, and lmin between the 1min runs. This could be written as 4min (4rec)+3min (3rec)+2min (2rec)+4xlmin (1rec). So as you can see by using your imagination interval training sessions can be tailored to suit anyone of any ability. The length and duration, pace, and length of rest will all depend upon the phase at which your training is at. So give it a go. If you have never tried interval training before I am sure you will see improvement in a very short time.
For anyone using intervals for the first time I suggest you try running 8-10 x 400m at a pace that is 5 sec/400m faster than your best time for 3 miles (5km). e.g. best time for 3 mile is 20 min equates to 100sec/400m. Therefore, run your intervals at 95sec/400m. Take a 2min active rest (jog or walk) then off you go again. This is the pace you will have to run at to do 19 min for 3 miles. That's a whole minute faster than you have run that distance before. But, because you are breaking it up into small portions with rests in between by the time you finish the session you should feel pleasantly fatigued. You must now allow your body to adapt to this new speed, so you will try to incorporate this session into your training at least once a week until you feel you are completing the session without too much difficulty. You can then either reduce the time of the interval (up the tempo by 1-2 secs) or reduce the time of the rest.
I suggest that a second session be introduced into your training each week to be completed not less than 2-3 days after the first session. This time the intervals are run over a shorter distance, say 200m and are run at a relaxed striding pace with a 200m untimed jog between each. This time don't worry about how fast you run them so long as they feel relaxed and fast. This means you must stay in full control, not feel tight in the upper body, and feel as though you are floating across the ground.
So, as I said earlier in this article, use your imagination. Be inventive, intervals can be made tough or can be a fun way of improving your speed. They can be run on the road, track or grass playing field. They can be long, short or a mixture of both. Just remember if want to get faster then you are going to have to train faster. Interval training is all the more enjoyable when done in a group situation with athletes of your own ability. Why not invite someone to join you or join in with an already established running group. So make a commitment now and start training to run faster for the summer series, the track season or the winter series.
Eric Brown, Cool Running Australia, 20.07.97