Any run over five minutes is highly reliant on the aerobic system. Therefore regular aerobic runs (commonly known as ‘tempo runs’) during the week and the long slow weekend run are critical for improving performance. However these runs won’t develop your muscular strength or speed and can become very monotonous. For this reason interval sessions are critical to:
- develop your run specific muscular strength and thus speed
- improve your running form
- build your run cadence
- improve your neuromuscular speed and coordination
The best part about interval training is that it is far more time efficient for developing your cardiovascular endurance.
Interval training involves short intense efforts, following by a period of ‘rest’ to allow the body to recover for the following effort. Duration of the effort, intensity (speed) of effort and period of recovery are all critical factors in designing the best type of interval session for your goals.
Some examples of interval sessions that can be included into training programs once a base level of aerobic fitness has been achieved include:
- High level speed efforts involving short hard efforts, followed by long recoveries of at least twice the period of the effort; such as 100m effort at max followed by 2min walk back recovery
- Threshold training requires running just above threshold pace for a moderate amount of time then a similar period of rest; such as 1k efforts at 10k race pace, following by 2-3minutes recovery between repetitions (this is great for improving your 5-10km race time!)
- Hill repetitions are also a great form of developing both muscular strength (using short sharp hills) and muscular endurance (long gradually climbing hills) followed by slowly walking down the hill as your recovery.
However please note that due to the load these sessions place on the body, only run one hard interval session per week (or up to 20% of your weekly distance). Also ensure that no heavy sessions are carried out 24hrs before or after these runs.