Running Interval Workouts: Key Strategies To Perform Better

Sometimes the best running interval workouts are the ones that can create the least amount of mental resistance.

running interval workouts

What do I mean?

It all depends on what type of runner you are but for many runners, arriving to the track can be intimidating.

We worry about hitting splits.

I have set amount of repetitions to complete in a set amount of time.

What happens if I don’t run them fast enough? Does that mean I am not in good shape or ready to hit my goal?

Often times, we second guess ourselves and place a great deal of stress on our workouts even before they begin.

I wanted to share a few running interval workouts that I have used in training to help alleviate the stress you may be feeling in training.

Top Runners Can Get Stressed Out Too

I think it is normal to feel a sense of uncertainty at times, just as long as it does not become chronic or begin to affect your daily life.

Runners are always concerned with if they have done enough.

The best way to overcome this is to always think of training as the most difficult part of preparation.

Training should always be far harder than any race will ever be. That being said, you should always use training as an indicator of what you can do in the race.

It takes the edge off of having to worry about if you are ready for your performance.

The Kenyans make it look easy in their races for a reason. They have trained for such a long time at such a high anaerobic level that racing seems automatic. Lastly, most of them use the exact style of training contained in this post.


Here are a few running interval workouts you can use in your training to help spice up your schedule in 2014 and beyond.

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1. 5-10×30 second repeats on the treadmill at a 3% grade

A  3% grade will challenge you and get you out of the flat land mindset.

The great runners of the past who were coached by Arthur Lydiard always implemented hills into their training.

This is a great way to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. In addition, it will assist you in great oxygen capacity when you will need it most in the future.

Easy running cannot create this physiological effect, only fast, anaerobic running.

You don’t necessarily have to run on a treadmill to do this.

Find a descent sized hill that takes anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds to sprint up near your home.

Sprint going up focusing on knee lift and arm swing going up, easy walk back down for recovery.

You can begin jogging back down for recovery as your fitness improves.

Allow Adaptation to Occur

2. 5-30x1min hard followed by 1 minute easy

Hard, fartlek running interval workouts will help you react to pace changes in the race.

It breaks up the monotony of regular sustained efforts and keeps training interesting.

I have used this type of fartlek countless times over the years and it works.

Fartlek is simply changing up the speeds at which you run just as it is in a race.

You will always be challenged in a race. In addition to that, being able to alternate the paces you are running at will add to your strength.

You have to teach yourself to react to pace changes in training. So, when you experience it in the race you will be able to sustain the effort with no added stress.

Mile Repeats

3. 6x1mile repeats on the track with lessening rest as fitness builds

This is one of the top workouts Lisa Rainsberger had me doing in Colorado Springs, Colorado when I was training for the 2007 California International Marathon.

It is an extremely demanding workout in that you are spending anywhere from 4 minutes to 6 minutes at very high anaerobic heart rates (165 or higher)

This is what you want.

The body has to be taught to handle ever increasing amounts of lactic acid building up in your bloodstream.

Furthermore, these running interval workouts teach the body to continue to convert lactic acid to energy.

We begin to slow down when the body can no longer convert lactic acid to energy. So, muscle functioning is lessened and we have to decrease the speed we are running at.

The problem is in order to increase our body’s ability to offset this from happening we have to deal with the pain of the workout.

The body will adapt to any stress you place on it but patience is vital.

Jack Hazen, my collegiate coach told us that it takes approximately 3 weeks or 21 days for the body to adapt to the stress we place on it.

Be Patient

Every early workout seems to feel as though you are in an all-out effort. That being said,  as time goes by it feels easier and easier.

Furthermore, we would always do mile repeats on the grass starting the season at 85% of our max mile effort during cross-country season.

We would spend three weeks at this effort, then move on to 88% and 91%. Lastly, we would spend three weeks running at 94% of our max mile effort.

Everything was based on a systematic, long-term approach. In addition, your running interval workouts will get faster and you will be able to recover as well.

4. 10x1K hard followed by 1 K easy

This is another great workout, especially for the  longer distance specialist who has interest in the 10K to marathon.

I usually aim to run the hard segments at a heart rate of between 168-73 beats per minute. This is at anaerobic threshold. Furthermore, the ‘easy’ segments are run at a heart rate of between 150-160 beats per minute.

World-renowned exercise physiologist, Dr. Joe Vigil, states our heart rate hovers between 168 to 175 beats per minute during a marathon.

This is what is termed the Anaerobic Threshold. It is the point where lactic acid begins to accumulate in our bodies.

Hydrate Well Before, During and After Your Workouts

The key in doing these workouts is that you have practiced race pace effort in training

Running interval workouts should only be implemented in your weekly training after you have layer a strong mileage foundation.

Furthermore, they are physically and mentally demanding. So, always ensure to lay a strong base before trying them in your training program.

This is one of the toughest running interval workouts that I do and totals 12 miles.

I have found that this workout assisted me in dropping my marathon best from 2.40.02 to 2.19.35 and can do wonders for your own racing.

5. 10x2minutes hard followed by 1 minute easy

I find that I can cover about 6 miles or right around a 5 minute per mile pace when I am at my fittest.

In addition, I aim to get my heart rate up to close to 175 beats per minute on the ‘hard’ segments. Lastly, I focus on 160-65 beats per minute on the ‘easy’ segments.

Also, running at a heart rate of 175 beats per minute or higher is more of a VO2 Max or Aerobic Capacity effort.

Closing Thoughts

This is running at near maximum effort. In addition, you should focus on these types of workouts when you have gained an enormous amount of fitness.

The ‘easy’ segment is not what I would consider ‘easy’ either.

Your pace will slow to only about 20-30 seconds per mile at the easy effort as it is at the hard effort so you are still running quite hard.

These forms of running interval workouts will create a physiological boost and give you added motivation leading into your goal race.

You will super compensate meaning you will come back 48 hours in better shape then we you began the workouts the few days prior.

I hope these running interval workouts will add to your fitness, help you run with more confidence and assist you in setting new personal bests in the near future.

Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new videos each week to help runners such as yourself get to the next level. There are also running courses and monthly, online coaching available here at rundreamachieve. You can view these options by looking at the navigation menu at the top of this website. I hope this post on running interval workouts success has been helpful to you.

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