Speed intervals may sound complicated, but they're not. It's a simple process of alternating spurts of high-intensity runs, followed by a few minutes of recovery. First, you stress your cardio system and build up lactic acid in the muscles (which boost body fuel, strength and stamina), and then let yourself rest and prepare for the next interval. Research has shown that interval training improves how well your body converts oxygen to energy. The more oxygen your body can process, the stronger and faster you can become. Intervals are also a great exercise for weight loss
I first started practicing intervals last year and it made a big difference on my race times. The first training cycle that I included speedwork on a weekly basis... I finally got my sub-2 half marathon. The proof is in the PR.
Running speedwork, however, isn't easy. It takes an inner strength to push yourself (or a track buddy by your side). To be honest, I have been a little slack with my speedwork since spring training. Today it was deadly obvious. My heart rate was skyrocketing as I raced the stopwatch. Here's how today went for me...
1.65 mile warmup jog (17:19)
I ran a nice big loop through Parkside Cemetery. The fall colors are so pretty right now and this environment is quite serene and peaceful away from the flow of traffic.
2x400 with a 400 recovery
I crossed the street over to the old track at Shea Stadium. When I kicked in the first 400, I thought, "Oh-dear, I really don't want to do this." The pace felt difficult and I could hardly catch my breathe (especially when I hit the wind). One lap felt like forever. Lap 1: 2:02 I always use a 400 to recover (one lap on a track). During this time, I take a drink, walk, jog or whatever it takes to catch my breathe again. Lap 2: 2:01 My legs are starting to remember what intervals are all about...
4x800 with a 400 recovery
I hate running 800's (2 laps on the track), but they are so impactful on my training results. I try to keep the pace as uncomfortable as the 400 but push it twice as long. I'm always hurting at the end and need at least a 100 to walk it out before I jog again. Intervals: 4:06, 4:04, 4:09, 4:10 I'm okay with these splits. They are slightly slower from this past spring when I was squeaking in under 4:00, but it's to be expected. Room to grow...
2x400 with a 400 recovery
By time I completed the 800's, I was elated to finish up with a couple shorties. I like mixing up the distances of my intervals; it keeps my mind on something other than the throbbing in my chest. As expected, I nailed them faster than in the beginning... 1:57, 1:57. That's a wrap... and I didn't die.
1.15 mile cooldown (12:00)My favorite part of speedwork is the cooldown. I allow myself to go whatever pace I want...usually slower is better. Today however, despite the tough intervals, I felt good and cruised along without much distress. I crossed the road again to head into the cemetery for another short loop... and who do I run into... my fast friend Anna, who is out doing intervals of her own (4x1600's... ouch!). Perfect timing, we get to run our cooldown together.
Total: 7.8 miles in 1:15
Remember, you don't need a track or stopwatch to do intervals and work on your speed. As a beginner, I felt awkward at the track, like I didn't belong. So I used a secluded road
Do you practice speedwork? How often?
Have you noticed an impact in your race times?