Looking for a great running interval training plan? The trick is to make it all about you. There are tons of programs out there that are great in principle but don’t work so well in practice. The old saying about fitting square pegs into round holes applies here. One size does not fit all! A running interval training plan needs to be tailored to suit the individual. Allowances need to be made for height, weight and ability level.
Today, I want to take a look at how you can create your own running interval training plan.
There are several simple rules and guidelines you can follow to create one that fits in around your lifestyle and meets your training goals, be they simple or ambitious.
Running Interval Training Plan Tips
Below, you’ll find tips on everything from frequency to pace management. I’ve also thrown in a couple of workout suggestions for good measure.
Identify your ultimate training goal
Before you start any type of training program, establish a clear goal. Interval running can be challenging. If you have a clear goal in mind you’ll be more motivated to keep going through the tougher sections of a workout. Having an ultimate goal to work towards really helps. It could be training for a 5k, losing a stone or mastering hill running. Interval-based workouts can help achieve a huge range of goals that steady state cardio routines can’t touch.
Maximise the time you spend running.
Interval running workouts combine high and low intensity bouts of running, which works the aerobic and anaerobic systems. The body gets an incredibly effective workout as a result. A running interval training plan should be designed with that in mind – don’t overdo it. Here’s the good news; you need only perform two interval workouts per week.
Give yourself time
Interval running may be a great way to maximise time spent training but that doesn’t mean you’ll be up to speed in a week. If you want to see long term, sustainable results, try for a running interval training plan that lasts for at least 12 weeks. Ideally, you’re aiming to make this type of training a permanent part of your running. Once you’ve mastered the art of intervals, a whole new world of workout possibilities opens up. If nothing else, it’s a great way to beat boredom. A varied workout week is way more effective than one that simply consists of the same route or routine day in, day out.
Start a journal
You don’t have to write much, just keep a record of what you’ve done on each training day. Be honest! Record the highs and the lows. You’ll find a journal is an invaluable part of a running interval training plan as it can help you stay motivated and pinpoint any problem areas.
Work on improving VO2 max
Don’t worry; I’m not about to unleash a biology lesson. However, in order to get the best out of a running interval training plan, you do need to understand a bit about how this type of exercise works. In short, you’re looking to improve VO2 max and running economy. The way to achieve this is through tempo running and running at interval pace.
Wondering how to gauge pace? Take your 5k race pace as a starting point. Interval pace is your 5k race pace plus 15 seconds per mile.
Include other workout types in your running interval training plan
Interval workouts should be used in conjunction with other types of routine. Two interval sessions per week will allow you to improve and avoid injury. What about the rest of the week? Aim for one distance run and a resistance training session for a well-rounded workout week. You may also want to have a look at cross training. Cycling and swimming are good places to start.
Keep interval workouts varied
Don’t fall into the trap of performing the same workout throughout your entire running interval training plan. It’s easy to stick to the same one when you’re only performing two workouts per week. Look at different workouts and keep challenging body and brain. There are tons to choose from.
Rolling hills and ladders are great for boosting endurance whilst mile repeats will work wonders for your 10k or half marathon race pace.
Short and intense intervals – or stride outs – of around 50-150m are great for improving overall running efficiency.
Workouts that require sprints performed at near to maximum capacity (90%) are great for enhancing VO2 max and lactate threshold.
Use training tools
Not sure where to start when it comes to designing a workout? Make your iPod take some of the strain. Check out the Treadmill Trainer workouts. They take care of timings, so you’re free to concentrate on running.
Example Running Interval Training Plan
To give you an idea of what’s involved, here’s a section of a running interval training plan. It’s geared towards those looking to run a half marathon in four months. As I said earlier, a running interval training plan should be well-rounded. You’re looking to incorporate interval workouts into your training philosophy and make them a natural part of your week. The same applies for race training. Intervals should simply be a part of your race training program.
Aim for four training days to start. Take three rest days, one of which can involve light cross training or walking. Avoid performing interval routines on consecutive days and give the muscles a chance to recover properly.
Sunday – this is distance run day! Start with a 6-mile run at a comfortable pace.
Monday – rest day (total rest)
Tuesday – standard interval workout. Start with a simple pattern. 30 second of intense running followed by 1 minute of moderate running is great. Repeat the pattern 10 times. Remember to warm up and cool down!
Wednesday – 4-mile tempo run
Thursday – rest day
Friday – pyramid interval workout. Run for 30 seconds at high intensity followed by 60 seconds at low intensity. Work up to 45 seconds, then 60 seconds and finally 90 seconds before reversing the order.
Saturday – rest day
Each week of a running interval training plan should be slightly different to help combat boredom and make the plan more effective. Obviously the workouts will get progressively more challenging but that will happen gradually so you’ll feel challenged but not completely overwhelmed.
Feel free to comment below or get in touch with me via Facebook or Twitter to ask about creating a running interval training plan.