Critical Marathon Training: Intervals

VID_20170717_174759339.00_00_19_18.Still001When executing any training plan, it is great to incorporate speed work.  Speed work runs get you away from running for the sake of running and accruing junk miles.  Speed work has an objective other than just finishing.  Speed work gives your workouts purpose.

Whether it is interval training, tempo runs, or Yasso 800s, the focus of speed work is intensity.  For any distance race, you are training to finish the distance, as fast as possible, without burning out.  In speed work, you are familiarizing yourself with that burn out limit and pushing past it in order to avoid it on race day.

One of my critical tools in the toolbox is interval training.  I have done marathon plans that include Yasso 800s once a week, building up to 10 sets at goal pace.  But now I am experimenting with shorter intervals.  My current recipe is as follows:

  • 2 minute Warmup
  • Quarter mile or 400m as hard as possible (hard breathing, can’t talk, probably 95% max HR)
  • 1:30 jog (slower than normal run pace, trying to bring the heart rate down to 60-70% max)
  • Repeat for a total of 6-8 sets
  • 3:00 cool down

I used to dread intervals, but now I look forward to them.  In fact, now my only run that doesn’t vary the pace is my weekly long run.  After Brian Mackenzie’s advice in the  Four Hour Body, and plenty of experimentation, I believe interval training can be the best workout for distance running.

Let yourself enjoy intervals.  You can feel like a kid, sprinting all out for a quarter mile.  You can go to a track and feel like an Olympic Relay runner for each hard lap.  Try going all out at each alternating light post.  Have fun with it.  That is probably why I like the shorter distance sets.  I tend to over think my pace and level of effort when doing Yasso’s and tempo runs.  I would conserve and short change the workout just to make sure I got the desired number of sets for the day.  You can usually force a hard(ish) quarter mile no matter how exhausted you are.

Let me know your interval strategies in the comments.

Bonus:  I like to run intervals with my 2 year old son in his stroller.  He knows when it is go time and when it is rest time.  He cheers and claps to help me go hard and then we chat during rest time to help my recovery.  More on stroller running soon.

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