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Is Interval Training Something for Every Runner?

“I feel the need for the speed”, so let’s hit those speedy intervals, or perhaps the cinema beckons…

Yet is interval training for every runner and I guess the question is should you be doing them?  If so how and where to start.  So let’s take a look at what they are and the variations.
Interval Training, or Repetition sessions are so often misunderstood and when purely executed they become ‘junk miles’ and in doing so rapidly increase the risk of injury or over training.

Good examples of an Interval session would be to visit your local athletics track and start running reps.  So a straightforward example would be

6 x 400 meters with say recovery of an easy jogged lap.

The more experienced and fitter will be adding sets.

Two sets of 6 x 400 meters, with 45 secs recovery between reps.  The recovery between the sets could be 4 mins.

Some Common Misconceptions

Let’s start with the biggest mistake. Intervals should not be run as fast as you can.  Run till you drop sessions are a waste of time.  The second, mistake many make is an assumption that because they can say, race 5k then they can go straight into a set that equates to that same distance. Again, this is likely to induce fatigue something that is not your friend.  If you teach your body to run into fatigue then it will learn to recognise the signs of what’s to come and protect itself.  It does this by slowing you down – what good is that?

Intervals are also about you, so in trying to keep up with someone faster than you is again not such a good thing. Believe it or not a sub 16 minute 5k runner can run the same session as a 25 minute 5k runner – one will just finish sooner.  (That has it’s advantages as they can get the kettle on!)  So it’s really important to run your pace.
For me, if you plan your session correctly then yes, interval training is something for everyone.

Why Interval Train?

There are clear benefits.  Yes, if run correctly with a little planning they help develop speed or your ability to keep speed going for longer.
They also help with your running form, especially towards the end of a race when let’s be honest, even the best can get a little raggedy.
Part of this speed development comes from the fact that you are also developing your bodies ability to be effective in utilising and clearing lactate acid.  All of these things the body will adapt too.  It takes a little time though.

The body’s adaptation process takes place on recovery days and during rest time, including sleep. An exhausted body will not adapt as quickly as one that is only a little fatigued – something that should always be remembered.  So interval sessions that leave wanting more, with only a little fatigue can be a good thing. This will ensure your body will learn and train itself to recover and adapt effectively.

So all in all in you may not always feel quicker finishing an interval session, yet your body is adapting. Therefore your efficiency improves and you are faster!

Is Interval Training Something For Everyone? You don't have to be a youngster to benefit either.

How Fast Should Intervals Be?

Here’s the thing.  No faster than your current known race pace. So if you run 20 minutes for a 5k then that would be 2 minutes for 500 meter intervals.  Conversely, if you are looking to develop a 50 minute 10k race time then that would be 5 minutes per kilometer, or 2:30 for each 500.

There is no point in running intervals at a speed your body cannot yet run over a given race distance

The rule here is fairly straightforward only run intervals at a given and known race speed that is current.  There are plenty of charts and phone apps to help you calculate your race pace from a known time and distance.  They are reliant on your fitness being spot on for each distance that you are predicting though.

There is a growing argument and in fairness something I have always believed in. This is that running your intervals a little slower than race pace can also be highly effective.  There is so much less fatigue.  I would also add that you can run your intervals to heart rate, although for this I would definitely recommend a Lactate Test.  (Check out AcceleratePerformance.co.uk)

So How Many Intervals Should you Run?

This very much does depend on your experience and also how much you currently train.  You also have to remember if you are not used to running weekly session at your race pace then your body will find these hard. As a result you will be moving quicker so pushing harder. Your range of movement will increase so stretching things out a little more.  So some caution is a good thing.  Fartlek, is a great precursor to hitting the track.

If this is your first interval session then play safe.

Consider your first session to be half the distance of the race distance the session is designed to help.  Perhaps a little less for 10k specific training.  You can build the distance every couple of weeks. In addition start with one session per week, no more.  You are looking for progressive adaptation not progressive speed!

What About Recovery Time Between Each Interval?

This is always a tough one.  For 5km and 10km pace try halving your interval time. So if you are running 2-minute 400’s then start with a minute easy walk / jog / walk recovery.  Yes, as you become fitter and more used to this work load you can drop the recovery time.  You will find fitter athletes will require as little as 30 seconds.

What About Over-Distance Sessions?

These can be highly effective. Simply this means that you are going to run a total interval distance greater than the race distance the session is designed for. In doing so you will build into this style of session over time.
It is also worth considering dropping the target time a little and / or increasing the recovery time. Another option is to split the session into two or perhaps three sets, ensuring plenty of recovery time.  The key is to not just to keep the pace the same, also the effort. This is where a heart rate monitor can come in handy. As your effort increases so does your heart, as with fatigue towards the end of a set.

Are Multi-Paced Sessions a Good Idea?

Yes! They are also good fun.  Again another type of session to build into.
You could start with two sets. The first set at 10km pace and then the second set at you 5km, with shorter distanced intervals.
Another way of using multi-paced sets is to run a longer rep at say 10km pace and then a shorter rep at 5km pace, alternating these as you go through.

Multi-Paced Session:
4 x 1km @ current 10km pace, 60 seconds walk / jog / walk recovery
4 mins walk / jog / walk recovery between sets
6 x 600mts @ current 5km pace, 60 seconds walk / jog / walk recovery

In Summary

The key remains don’t become overly fatigued from these type of sessions as there simply is no gain.  This is the human body we are talking about not a racing car. As long as you plan ahead and for each and every session you should see improvement. This really does mean ensuring the correct current pacing is utilised, not your ‘wish’ pace.  With newcomers to Interval sessions using differing race paces as your target at different sessions is a great way to start.  Then you can focus in on your race specificity.

Yes, I do think that interval training can offer something for every runner.

Interval Try Out Time: If you would like to join in a session for the first time, then why not come along on the 2nd June 2022. We will be running a coached session that will be tailored to every attendee based on experience and their current racing pace.  You can also test a pair of Carbon Shoes should you want too.  Details HERE >>

Carbon Shoe Test Day & Interval Session

Maximum Heart Rate? Forget It…

It keeps on coming up on social media. Plus, I am continually asked about maximum heart rate and how to calculate it.
The reason it would appear is to calculate those all important training zones that help maximise folks training, yet the question should be asked if there is a better way?
I hear about some new amazing formula all of the time, yet the truth is they do not work for that many people.

Formulae Do Not Work, OK!

There is no one size fits all here, merely normal ranges of what we would expect.
It all started with this:
Men – 220 – Age = MHR.  Women – 226 – Age = MHR.
So popping that in reverse against my known max I am 22 years old. Yay!!  I wish…
The roots of this formula lie in a study carried out on people recovering from open heart surgery of one sort or another. The age range was teenagers through to the elderly, with around a total of 60 participants.

Clearly this has no relevance on fit runner types.  It is however a very safe way of getting very poorly folk back into exercise. So this does have some relevance. Just not for us.
No formula I have seen works for everyone. Nothing I have ever seen on a sports watch works for everyone.  There are just too many physiological differences between us all.  Yes, there are ‘mean’ parameters that we would expect for where training zones fall.

So What Does Work?

I have always been reliant on a couple of methods. Both are very reliable and I have years of practice looking at heart rate, graphs and lab results The key to these results is also extremely reliant on the athlete being in a recovered state when the race graph is reviewed or the test undertaken.

  1. Get a Lactate Test…
    Well, that may not be so easy right now. We would normally offer them here at the Accelerate Performance Centre. If you are less local, when you can, find somewhere with plenty of experience. Universities, with a sports lab can usually oblige.
    Simply you run on a treadmill. Thankfully, you do not go to your maximum heart rate. That would be daft as you’ll probably fall over and fly off the back, plus there is no need.
    Every 3-minutes, sometimes four, a blood sample is taken from either your finger or your ear. Each time the speed is then increased and the process repeated around 6 times.  From here the blood sample is analysed to determine the amount of lactate that is present. This will rise as your put more effort into the test.
    The results are then plotted onto a graph alongside heart rate and it is from this that your training zones can be determined.  The lactate volumes will be different per person, and again no one size fits all. Too often I hear that 4mmols of lactate was used to determine the top  training zone.  Wrong again as we are all different; it’s a little like saying we all have brown hair.
  2. Study and Analyse Those Race Graphs.
    You’ll need to find someone who knows what they are doing. Yet it is possible to determine that top L4 Heart Rate Zone from good consistent race graphs. From there you can work backwards for the other zones.  I have done this loads of times and have preceded to predict the zones pre lactate test and to everyone’s surprise…
    5 mile and 10k graphs, or any sustained hard effort over no more than 45 minutes max should do it.

All of this has to be so much easier and safer than a ‘Bucket Test’ – so called as you may need a bucket following a maximum effort to achieve a max heart rate.
I have been using heart rate for over 30 years. As a coach it is my preferred weapon of choice, even with the arrival of ‘power’ for runners, I still believe it is the better option. Track, road and even mountain runners have all benefited from heart rate training weather to help develop lactate tolerance and buffering or to ensure adequate recovery. I have worked with runners from newcomers through to the very fast, triathletes and duathletes too.  The results these athletes have achieved using heart rate as a training tool speak for themselves.

Heart rate training, “it’s the best thing since sliced bread”.

It is unfortunate that there is no ‘one size fits all’ to heart rate training zone calculation. There is however a very clear opportunity to maximise training outcomes using heart rate and one that for many is just being missed. Too many times heart rate monitors end up as an add on to a GPS ‘requirement’ and something I have often referred to as the ‘bottom draw syndrome’ once people have struggled to get a handle on their heart rate. In my humble opinion, it’s a missed opportunity.

Scott Cruise, tried and tested

Accelerate Scott Team member Harvey was lucky enough to get his hands on a new pair of the Scott Running Cruise. The newest member in Scotts range. Read on to hear all his thoughts on them.

The Cruise is the latest addition to Scott’s road running line up. Using their latest Kinetic midsole, a single layered engineered mesh upper and their eRide technology which rolls you forward with every stride. It has resulted in an interesting shoe to run in…

First Impressions

So this is a strange one. Straight out the box they comfy and feel nice to walk around in. However, to run in I just couldn’t get one with them, they felt heavy, to firm and clunky and I felt sluggish wearing them. So not the best start. But I persevered wearing them to see if breaking them in might help with this.

Specs

Weight: 280g

Drop/ Stack height: 11mm, 15mm in the toe and 26mm in the heel

Midsole: Kinetic Foam, Claiming 14% more energy return than standard EVA midsole

Best use: Road Running

Support: Neutral

After 200 (ish) Miles

They now feel completely different, they are the shoe I reach for whenever I’m heading out on a run. So what has changed?

After around 50 miles the midsole began to break in and feel more alive and responsive, less like a boat on my foot. The upper has also stretched and moulded slightly to my foot making them even comfier than when I first got them.

After the 50 mile mark they have been a great shoe and I have started to use them for more and more of my training. Initially, I only took them out on my easy days when I didn’t want to run too fast and wanted a bit more between me and thew ground. Gradually I have started to use them for more of my longer runs and even a few speed session and they have been amazing. They just do everything I want from a shoe, feel well cushioned enough that I’m not getting beaten up and light enough that even when they are at higher paces they feel great.

There are very few shoes that I feel I can use for every part of my training, the only others are the Saucony Kinvaras.

 

If you have had Scott shoes before and are in need of a new road shoe the Cruise is defiantly worth a try on. The Mens can be found here >> and the Womens here >>

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