Are you looking to give your running performance a boost? If so, you may want to consider incorporating interval running into your routine.
A form of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), interval running has been a favorite of athletes for years. It’s a technique that involves alternating between intense bursts of exercise and recovery periods to build cardiovascular strength, power, and speed.
Think of interval running as a rollercoaster ride – you’ll experience thrilling moments of intensity followed by brief periods of rest before being thrown back into the excitement.
Now, you may be wondering how to get started with interval running.
Here’s the good news – You’re in the right place.
In this article, I’m going to give you the low-down on the six main speed work runs you need to add to your schedule: basic intervals, fartleks, treadmill intervals, hill reps 100m dashes, and tempo efforts. These workouts may not be an exhaustive list of speed work sessions, but they’ll definitely help you on your journey to becoming a faster, stronger runner.
Ready? Let’s go!
Interval Running Explained
Let’s talk about interval running.
This is the training method that’ll take your running game from zero to hero in no time.
So, what is interval running, you ask? It’s a fancy way of saying, “Run fast and recover.” Essentially, you run at a challenging pace for short distances and then take a break before doing it all over again.
This is where the magic happens – by challenging yourself with high-intensity intervals, you’ll increase your stride length, improve your running efficiency, and boost your overall speed.
Interval running is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. One minute you feel undefeatable, and the next minute you’re gasping for air like a fish out of water. But hey, that’s all part of the fun, right? Just keep pushing yourself, and who knows what kind of PB you’ll be able to butter next time around.
And the best part? You can do it anywhere! Whether you prefer pounding the pavement, hitting the track, or even tackling a steep hill, speedwork can be adapted to fit your style.
And don’t worry; you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to start incorporating interval runs into your routine. Classic sessions like sprints, tempo runs, and fartleks are perfect for runners of all levels.
The Benefits Of Interval Running Workouts
If you want to give your running performance a boost, look no further than interval running workouts.
It’s like turbocharging your training, turning up the intensity to boost your speed.
But there’s more to it than just getting a kick out of a challenging workout. Studies show that interval training can increase your VO2 max, allowing your body to use oxygen more efficiently. This leads to increased fitness capacity, better athletic performance, and improved overall health.
Plus, you might even continue to burn calories at a higher rate long after your workout is done, thanks to the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect. It’s like a bonus round for your fitness goals!
Warming up Right
Before you jump into your first interval workout, don’t forget to warm up properly.
A good warm-up increases your body temperature, boosts blood flow to the muscles, and prepares you mentally for a challenging run. It can also help prevent injury and burnout, so it’s worth taking the time to do it right.
Start with a gentle walk, then gradually increase to a slow jog for five to ten minutes. Then, add in some dynamic mobility and stretching drills like quad tugs, heel walks, butt kicks, scorpions, inchworms, lunges, and high knees.
The more, the merrier! And don’t forget to include some speed drills to get your legs firing.
Finally, complete four to six strides – quick accelerations lasting 20 to 30 seconds at close to 100 percent speed. Recover fully between each set, and perform them on a flat, smooth surface. It’s like priming your body for action – so you can give it all during your interval workout.
With the right warm-up and a positive attitude, you’ll be well on your way to improving your running performance, hitting your fitness goals, and having a blast while doing it!
If you’re just starting out, begin your foray into interval running with a set of six to eight 200-meter at a 5K pace or a bit faster, interceded with an easy 200-m in between each to recover.
Here is how to proceed with your next (or first) interval run session:
- Start with a decent 15-minute dynamic warm-up.
- Run at an interval pace—roughly 85 to 95 percent of max speed—for one minute.
- Jog for a 2-minute recovery break.
- Repeat the on and off pattern four to six times.
- Jog for five minutes to cool down, then stretch.
That’s it. Now let’s look at how fast you should be doing these intervals.
The Pace – How Fast To Perform Interval Runs
Interval training workouts are performed at 85 to 98 percent of the maximum heart rate, depending on distance and your fitness level and goals.
So, for instance, short intervals are performed at a slightly faster than 5K race pace, with relatively longer recovery breaks, typically lasting two to three times as long as the repetition time.
Longer intervals are usually performed at roughly a 5K race pace, with recovery bouts of equal length or slightly less than the fast surge time.
But, all in all, as long as you’re running faster than your goal race pace, you’re heading in the right direction.
Additional Resource – Here’s your guide to the Yasso 800 Workout
6 Interval Training Running Workouts For Speed
Without further ado, here are the Interval training running sessions you need to improve your speed and overall running performance.
Interval Training Running Workout I – The Basic Interval Run
The Basic Interval Run is perfect for new initiates as it helps them get their foot in the door without increasing the risk of injury or burnout.
It’s a simple yet effective workout that consists of two main parts. First, you’ll have a fast-paced segment known as the repeat. This is where you’ll run over a specific distance at a targeted pace goal speed.
The typical interval workouts consist of short repeats, lasting no more than 100 to 400 meters, or longer distances, lasting between 800 to 2000 meters. You can choose which distance works best for you depending on your fitness level and goals.
Then, the fast surge of effort is followed by a brief recovery. This can be short—lasting for only 30 to 60 seconds—or of an equal time or distance to the repetition. Don’t worry, the recovery time is just as important as the fast segment. It gives your body time to catch its breath and prepare for the next round of speed.
Once you’ve mastered the Basic Interval Run, you’ll be ready for our other Interval Training Running Workouts for Speed.
Interval Running Workout II – The Fartlek Bursts
Standing for speed play in Swedish, Fartlek is a form of training that mixes steady-state running with speed intervals in an unstructured format.
This form of training is like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book for runners. You get to pick the pace, distance, and recovery time of each acceleration – it’s like being your own running coach!
But don’t let the unstructured format fool you – Fartlek training is a killer workout that can boost both your aerobic and anaerobic systems.
Pick an object in the distance – a parked car, a telephone pole, maybe even your neighbor’s house (just kidding, don’t be that runner) – and sprint towards it. Once you reach your target, take it easy with some light jogging to recover before your next surge. Start with a 10 to 15-minute jog to warm up your muscles, and then let the fun begin.
It’s like a game of tag with your own body, and you get to set the rules. But remember, you still need to challenge yourself. Run fast enough to increase your heart rate and breathing, but don’t push it too hard. You want to be able to finish the interval and recover fully before the next surge.
Additional resource – How fast can Bolt Run
Interval Training Running Workout III – The Treadmill Interval Routine
Feel like you’re running out of time but still want to sweat it out? Then this treadmill interval session is for you.
It’s the perfect way to challenge yourself and push your limits, all while fitting into a tight schedule. And the best part? You can do it all on a treadmill.
Start with a 5-minute warm-up jog to get those muscles firing, then get ready to kick it up a notch. At the 5-minute mark, it’s time to turn up the heat and hit a high-intensity speed of 9 mph or faster. You’ll feel the burn, but remember, you’re a runner – you can handle it! After your intense one-minute burst, take a much-needed recovery break for another minute before repeating the process. But wait, there’s more!
This time, add a 4.0 incline to mimic the outdoor conditions and make those leg muscles work even harder.
Take a breather and jog or walk for one minute before diving back into your high-intensity bursts and incline challenges.
Do five or six rounds of this routine, and before you know it, you’ve got yourself a total of 15 minutes of heart-pumping, calorie-burning goodness.
Finish off with a 5-minute cool-down jog and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. You did it! So, even if you only have 25 minutes to spare, you can still get a killer workout in with this HIIT routine on a treadmill. No excuses, just sweat!
Interval Training Running Workout IV – The Hill Routine
Are you looking for a workout that combines speed and strength?
Look no further than hill reps! These structured interval-style runs consist of hard bursts up a hill with the down section used as the recovery portion before assaulting the hill again.
Hill running is like a marriage between faster-paced running and traditional strength training, making it the ultimate power couple.
Think of hill runs as “speedwork in disguise.” Although they don’t force you to run at top speed, they still offer many of the same perks of traditional speedwork training.
Uphill running is the perfect way to promote good running technique because it forces you to lift your knees and drive your elbows back and forth to propel you forward. These are some of the most universal traits of good form.
And let’s not forget about the downhill repeats. They’ll work your quads like nothing else and increase strength in your joints and tendons.
When planning your hill workout, make sure to find a gentle slope that’s at least 100 yards long and not too steep – preferably, a traffic-free area.
The ideal hill should take you about 30 seconds to one minute to climb at 90 percent of your maximum effort. And if you live in a relatively flat, hill-free region, don’t worry! Find a bridge or highway overpass with about a 5 percent grade for your hill reps.
Now, it’s time for the session. After a thorough warm-up, assault the hill at a 5K effort pace (That’s effort, not speed). When you reach the end point of the uphill section, walk for 10 to 15 seconds, turn around, and jog slowly down to the start.
Then repeat. And remember to perform the reps with good form. Don’t lean too much forward, but focus on maintaining your balance, engaging your core, shortening your leg stride, and lifting your knees a little higher than you’re used to when running on flat surfaces.
Interval Running Workout V – The 100m Dashes
Are you ready to feel like a pro sprinter? Head to the track, but be careful. Only do this after interval workouts and fartleks have become a part of your routine.
You don’t want to pull a hamstring and end up sitting on the sidelines.
Before you go full speed, warm up with a 10-minute jog, then perform six to eight strides to get your muscles fired up and ready to do some intense work. And boy, will it be intense. Get ready for eight to ten 100m fast bursts.
Your first interval should include 40 meters at maximum speed. And to recover, walk or jog for half the duration of the faster interval before jumping onto the next one.
Aim for 95 to 99 percent of single max effort. So, for instance, if your 100m max effort is 18 seconds, then the slowest you drop to is 20 seconds.
As you get used to running on the track, increase the volume of reps and lengthen reps to 200 meters, sprinting nearly the entire time at top speed. Just make sure to cool down afterward and stretch those leg muscles.
Interval Running Workout VI –Tempo Runs
Tempo training is where intensity meets endurance. Think of it like running on the edge of a cliff – you’re pushing yourself to the limit but still maintaining control and balance.
These workouts are like a symphony for your body, with sustained effort over a preset time or distance. Classic tempo runs are the conductor, teaching your body how to maintain that comfortably hard effort over an extended timeframe.
And the benefits? Oh boy, let me tell you. A Dutch study published in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise found that tempo runs can improve your overall running efficiency by up to 10 percent. That’s like adding a turbocharger to your engine!
But why does it work? It’s all about that anaerobic threshold, the point at which your body switches from aerobic to anaerobic systems. It’s like flipping a switch and unleashing the power within.
And as you push yourself to the limit, you may start to feel the burn of lactic acid. But fear not, because increasing your threshold at a given pace means you can maintain that pace for longer and power through the burn like a fiery dragon.
So, how long should your tempo runs be? Well, that depends on your training level and target race distance. But as a general guideline, start with 15 to 20 minutes and gradually extend as you build endurance and power.
Now, let’s talk about that tempo pace. It should be roughly 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate or 10K race pace. That’s like hitting the sweet spot between hard work and sustainable effort.
When it comes to the workout itself, start with a 10 to 15 minute warm-up jog and then pick up the pace to your predetermined tempo segment. And after all that hard work, don’t forget to cool down with a five-minute easy jog to avoid that pesky blood-pooling phenomenon.
Interval Running Workouts – The Conclusion
Interval running workouts can be a game-changer in your fitness journey, and I hope that the tips and tricks I’ve shared will inspire you to take your running to the next level. By incorporating intervals into your routine, you can increase your speed, endurance, and overall fitness in no time.
So, lace up your shoes, hit the pavement, and let’s get started on this journey together. Remember, every step you take brings you closer to your fitness aspirations.
Thank you for taking the time to read my tips and tricks, and I wish you all the best on your running journey. Keep training strong, my friends!
Your fellow runner,