I have a love/hate relationship with interval sessions. I love it when my weekly session is just finished and I hate the those moments each week as I approach the session.
I perform intervals weekly- usually a Monday or Tuesday. In spite of the fear and trepidation with which I approach these there are a number of reasons runners should not ignore interval sessions.
Intervals are necessary to:
1. Improve your pace.
2. Improve your running form.
3. Bring variety into your running.
The benefits of interval sessions are immense:
1. By setting the distance and pace of your intervals appropriately you can really target improved race times for your 10k, half marathon or marathon. The intervals will vary according to what you are training for. For example, I am currently trying to improve my 10k time over 24 months from 44mins to sub 40. I know this is a huge task but I also know that I’ll never do it if I don’t get used to running at that pace . So in my current weekly intervals I run a half mile x 6 (2mins rest intervals). The half mile is at 6:26mins/mile as this is the pace I need to achieve for a sub 40mins. When I have achieved all 6 intervals on target or better, I increase the number of weekly intervals from 6 to 8, then 10 and so on. I will stick at 6 intervals however until I am fit to move on.
2. As you perform at speed the improvements in running form will benefit your capacity to run better during a race, for longer. The act of running quickly gets your leg muscles used to the intensity and it readies them for action. We all tend to run quicker in a race than in training. If our legs aren’t ready we could cause injury.
3. You are more likely to improve your breathing as you should be puffing during an interval session. This will help you in tough parts of a run or for a sustained effort during a 10k, for example.
4. The intensity not only improves fitness but will burn fat for longer – even 24hours after the session. It is intensity that gets weight down. Long slow runs don’t have the same benefits nor do they raise your metabolism for as long after the session. Furthermore, the long run is more likely to make you hungry! However, of course the long run is the staple run of any half marathon or marathon but you need a weekly interval session as well. Sometimes you can work intervals into a long run (at an appropriate pace).
5. Finally, intervals provide a little variety and are generally a quick session – probably no more than an hour, but often shorter.
In short, intervals are intense and tough but it is because of this they are so beneficial to our running !