Friday, June 26, 2009

The Benefits of Interval Training

My Marine Corps Marathon training is kicking in soon and the FIRST training plan that I'll be using along with my running buddies has us scheduled for an interval workout each week. I know interval workouts help increase your overall speed, but I wondered what other benefits you gain from doing a weekly interval workout. Here's what I found.

You'll burn more calories. Yep, that's right. Recent studies (i.e., American College of Sports Medicine), show that short intense runs such as intervals or fartleks can be very beneficial to weight loss. The Mayo Clinic also says that the more vigorously you exercise, the more calories you'll burn — even if you increase intensity for just a few minutes at a time.

You'll increase your endurance. As your cardiovascular fitness improves you'll improve your aerobic capacity which means you'll be able to exercise longer and more intensely.

You'll be able to better adapt to the demands of an endurance race. Interval training works both the aerobic and the anaerobic system. During the intense running of your interval workout, your muscles use stored glycogen for energy. This is the Anaerobic system at work. Because the anaerobic system doesn't use oxygen, it gives off a by-product called lactic acid which results in that burning sensation you feel in your muscles. When you jog for recovery in between intervals, your heart and lungs work together to add oxygen back into the muscles, breaking down the lactic acid. This is the aerobic system at work. Doing intervals on a weekly basis helps teach your body to build up a higher tolerance to lactic acid buildup. It also strengthens your heart. In a nut shell, this means improved performance and improved endurance. So speed work actually helps endurance runners become more efficient runners.

You won't need any fancy equipment. All you need is a track, but actually you don't even need that if you can find a flat area and measure your repeat distances. Getting to a track can sometimes be difficult for me, but I discovered that the parking lot at one of our local parks is a half-mile loop which is basically 800meters. Perfect for interval training.

You'll make your training week more interesting. Not only will you have a different experience to look forward to, you'll eventually begin to see how your other "regular" workouts are beginning to benefit from your interval training.

You'll feel amazing after an interval workout. During the workout you may be cursing, but afterward, the sense of accomplishment is very rewarding.

Consistent interval training can help to lower your resting heart rate. The more blood pumped per beat the less your heart needs to beat each minute. The more blood pumped per beat the LESS your heart needs to beat each minute. That's a good thing!

22 comments:

The Happy Runner said...

Great post! Running intervals makes me feel very accomplished, if that makes sense -- like I'm running with a serious purpose.

When I can't get to the track (and I often can't) I'll either do what you suggested or run my intervals on the treadmill. Not ideal but it works!

TammyRunsWV said...

Hey RunnerDude, I haven't bugged you in a while! Do these interval workouts involve short distance repeats or long distance repeats, or does it matter? For example, my training plan has me doing a "speed workout" of 7 miles total, with 3 repeats of 1 mile fast with 1/2 mile recoveries. Should I be adding in shorter intervals during my week? Is there a difference between running shorter v. longer intervals, or does this depend on the distance you're training for? Thanks!

Gina Harris said...

It's amazing that you posted this since I just started interval training and posted aon my blog about it. http://ginamartineharris.blogspot.com/ :)

Nice post!

HEATHER said...

I'm on week #2 of speed work/ interval training, and I'm amazed at the difference I feel in my running already!

Jeff Pickett said...

Timely post! This week was MY first real interval training. The day after that run when I went out for an easy run, the change was quite noticeable. I felt like my pace was able to quicken without as much effort as in the past. I'm eager to see how this impacts me with a sustained effort each week!

Dena said...

Ready to bond at the track, Thad? I needed this post. I dread intervals - would rather do a hill workout any day. But I'm going to print this out and remind myself how STRONG I'm getting. And you're right... the feeling of accomplishment once it's over is tremendous. (Assuming there is no cheating. Watch me - I can't be trusted. ) =)

RunnerDude said...

Hey The Happy Runner!I've learned to do intervals on the treadmill too. Not too bad. Prefer them outside, but good for bad weather.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Tammy!Good question. There are all kinds of interval training plans around, but the ones I usually use have me running a total of about 3-5 miles including the recovery jogs/walks. I would think doing mile intervals three times, it would be hard to get up to your lactate threshold and keep it there. What you're describing is definitely a good workout, but I kind of think of that more as a fartlek, where you ramp it up but maybe not as intense as during intervals at the track. IntervalTraining.net says "Sprint intervals are measured either by time or distance. They can be as short as 15 seconds in activities like HIIT or as long as 20 minutes for aerobic interval training." I posted on my speed workouts awhile back. In that post I give the interval workouts I roated through. Check it out. I may help give you a better idea of intervals. http://ncrunnerdude.blogspot.com/2009/02/speed-work-101.html
Being a long distance runner doesn't mean you'll do longer intervals. Research has shown that Endurance runners really benefit from the track interval workouts. The reason is that it helps your body learn to adapt and better oxygenate itself, so you don't burn out. Hope this helps.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Gina! I see you did Yasso 800s! Awesome! those are tough!! You go girl!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Heather! It really does make you feel different and you feel it pretty soon too. Kind of cool. Great job!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Jeff! You'll really see a big difference as you keep up the interval training. It's really surprising how much a difference one workout a week can make to your overall running.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Dena! I'll be Sgt. Carter and be right you your heels. Move it! Move it! Move it! LOL!!

The Biz Runner said...

Cool post. I'm also running the Marine Corps and will be using the FIRST plan! I used a version of the plan for the this years Covered Bridges Half-Marathon and it worked out pretty well so I'm going to give it shot for a full marathon.

RunnerDude said...

Hey The Biz Runner!Awesome!! Let me know how the plan is going for you. We're officially starting on July 5th. I'm really looking forward to getting started.

Jo Lynn said...

Yup, hate it when you are doing it but feel a great sense of accomplishment afterwards. That good feeling can go a long way too. ;)

RunnerDude said...

Hey Jo Lynn! I was blown away after my first half marathon after adding intervals. It made a huge huge difference!

Jay said...

Interval training has been known to optimize hormone levels, ultimately resulting in fat loss and strength gains. Great athletic carryover.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Jay! Yep, another great benefit of intervals. Awesome things to add to your weekly workouts.

onelittletrigirl said...

Great post! I am definitely going to start including intervals in my run training. I didn't do any intervals while training for my half but really feel it could be instrumental in my full training. Thanks for the advice.

RunnerDude said...

Hey onelitteltrigirl! Yep, I think you'll be amazed at much a difference it makes. Keep me posted on your progress.

gymdude1973 said...

Hi RunnerDude, very interesting post.I have been working out for a while and I am exited to give interval training a shot.
I work out daily, cardio in the AM and lift later on the day.

For starters, would it work to:
run for a minute and walk for 2 and do this 3 min cycle for 30 mins?

There is new interval program that is coming up July 13 called Insanity, ( a 13 DVD series) which is based on the principal of interval training, so far, just a preview is out there and really makes me want to jump into it right away! There is a bunch of info about it on my website : www.extremefitnessresults.com . Are you familiar at all or have you herd of Insanity?

What do you think?

Thanks!

RunnerDude said...

Hey gymdude1973! Welcome to the blog! The run one minute/walk 2 would be a good way to get your feet wet, but intervals really focus more on the intensity of the sprint interval and then the much slower recovery walk/jog. Typcially the sprint interval is run at your 5K pace or a little faster and that distance can vary from 200m, 400m, 800m, 1000m, 1200m, with the longer interval usually being no more than a 1600m. The slow recovery walk/jog usually is somewere between 60secs, 90secs, or 2mins.
A typical interval session may be something like:
10-20min warmup (easy run)
4 x 800 (2min recovery)
10-minute cooldown

For examples of 6 different interval workouts check out an earlier post I did on speedwork http://ncrunnerdude.blogspot.com/2009/02/speed-work-101.html

I haven't see the new interval program you mentioned, but it sounds interesting and I'm going to check it out. Thanks!!!