Intervals – High Intensity Training for your Running Routine

Intervals – High Intensity Training for your Running Routine

Running intervals is one of the best ways to make sure you are ready to run a fast paced race. An interval workout involves running hard for a set time or distance. You then rest and run hard again. The rest time is usually a set period of time as well when you either walk or slowly jog. A common way to determine the amount of rest is you give yourself the same amount of recovery time as your interval.

On a scale of one to ten, the intervals should be at eight or above as far as your physical exertion. It is definitely one of the harder workouts a runner can do. Don’t start doing interval training unless you can handle a distance run pretty easily.

Before you begin your intervals, make sure to Warm-up You need to be loose and ready to run quick when you begin this workout. Do a few strides, or do some dynamic stretching to be really ready to go.

After you have warmed up and stretched, start the interval workout. There are many different ways to do intervals. One of the most common is to do a set distance a number of times. An example of this is to 400 meter repeats on the track. You can do any amount of repeats as you like. I typically have my 800 meter runners only do four repetitions, and the 3200 meter runners will do up to 12 repetitions.

I suggest doing longer interval sessions early in the season, and shorter interval sessions later in the season. Early on, building endurance is key. Later, its all about sharpening your speed. So, maybe we would focus on mile repeats the first few weeks of training, and work our way down to 400’s for our final few weeks of training.

For Cross Country, we often run one mile intervals three times. We can do this workout on the track, but sometimes we will run the intervals on the course where our next meet will be. The runners run just below their race pace for each mile. For example, if you can run a 5k in 19:00, your race pace is just over six minutes per mile. This means you run each one mile repeat at six minutes. Then you rest for six minutes before repeating another interval.

Some interval workouts are called “ladders.” This is where you would run 400m, then 800m, then 1200m. Then you go back down to 800m and finish with a 400m. Sprinters often do ladder workouts such as 100-200-300-200-100.

I often have my runners wear their running spikes for interval workouts. The pace is usually at or faster than race pace, so I want to simulate that race feel as much as I can. You can compare prices right here for men’s  or women’s running spikes. 

Another way to manipulate intervals is to manage your rest time differently according to what you want to accomplish. Early in the season, I suggest cutting down the amount of rest. You’ll end up with slower interval times, but shorter rest. This helps build up your endurance. Towards the end of the season, give yourself more rest, or what we call “full recovery.” You should be running these intervals much faster because you’re working on speed at the end of the season. An example of this would be to run mile repeats at 6 minute pace with 1 minute rest early in the season. Late in the season you might run mile repeats at 5 minute pace with 5 minutes of rest.

Once you have finished your last interval, get in a good cool down. Your legs will be sore the next day no matter what, but they will hurt a whole lot more if you don’t cool down.

For specific interval workouts you can check the following links.

1. 1 mile repeats.
2. 4×400 with progressively less rest.
3. 300m hard, 100m easy.
4. Mixed Distance Intervals

One more tip before you start running these workouts. Make sure you are following the hard, easy philosophy when training. You shouldn’t do intervals every day. After a hard run, the next day you should run easy. Good luck.

If you are preparing for the most famous race distance of them all, follow the 100 Day Marathon Plan. It prepares you for 26.2 miles one step at a time. Pick your pace and follow the plan that two time Olypian Marius Bakken has created in his marathon ebook.

– Written by David Tiefenthaler

Related Articles

Running Workouts
Beginner Running Tips
Cross Country Running Tips
Running Track
100 Day Marathon Plan
This article was written by David Tiefenthaler, the founder and main contributor for In addition to running, he’s also an author, and a full time teacher.

You can follow David on Twitter @Tiefsa or visit his blog.

Leave a Reply