Tuesday Talk #2: Intervals

Morning Workout:

– Body Combat at gym

Tuesday Talk: Intervals

I’m still a relatively new runner (although it doesn’t feel like it to me anymore!) since I just started running in February of last year. When I started out, I was slow – a 10 min pace for even a few miles was difficult for me! But I’ve gotten a lot faster over the last six months (I can comfortably run at about an 8:50 pace for several miles), and I’m giving the credit to my speedwork.

I talked about doing tempo workouts on my first Tuesday Talk post, and I regularly do tempos and intervals (one of each during a week) when I’m not training for a marathon.  Tempos are great because they teach you to run at an uncomfortably fast but manageable pace (your body would rather run slower but can sustain the speed) for a longer period of time.  Tempo runs over time will increase your lactate threshold and help you to maintain a faster speed comfortably on long runs.

Intervals on the other hand, aren’t about sustained effort, but rather running at “close to full speed” for short bursts of time.  This does a couple of things: (1) it increases your leg turnover and improves the efficiency of your form – think about it, when you’re sprinting, your body is focused and mechanically efficient – and (2) it improves your cardiovascular fitness, and (3) it improves your muscles’ ability to use the oxygen delivered by your lungs (VO2Max).  Literature suggests that interval training can increase the number of capillaries going to the muscles, and my guess is there’s cellular change going on in the muscles as well, and all that results in an increased ability for the muscles to consume the oxygen you deliver from the lungs.  That’s as science-y as I’m going to get here.  Aside from the physical benefits, you also psychologically get used to pushing your speed for short bursts of time – like you might do if you were sprinting at the end of a race!

There’s all sorts of science you can use to calculate what kind of intervals you should run and how fast you should run them.  But I’m a relatively new runner, so I’ve kept my intervals pretty simple so far.  Here’s two kinds of intervals I do:



Either workout can be done on a track, back and forth on a straight path, or on a treadmill.  You can adjust distances, speeds, and length of intervals to suit yourself, but it’s best to keep the intervals around 30 sec – 3 min long.

If you’re interested in reading more, here are some articles that I found helpful:





4 thoughts on “Tuesday Talk #2: Intervals

  1. aklimchak

    Nice post Dawn! One thing to add here… If the interval training is really intense, you’ll start working anaerobically. Consistent interval training will increase your muscles’ glycogen capacity which is important at the end of races b/c it is generally responsible for that final kick when you have nothing left. However, I can think of 5 reasons why you’d understand this far better than I would ;-) If that doesn’t make sense, I’d just like to comment that I think your comMITment to your blog is admirable. Keep up the good work!

    1. Dawn H.

      Thanks Andrew! Wasn’t aware of that – that’s a very cool fact. I may have experienced that “final kick” today during a 5k – I thought I was going to keel over and die but I somehow found myself sprinting at the end.

  2. Andrew

    That’s awesome! Congrats! To improve anaerobic capacity you could also include hill repeats where you find your favorite (and by favorite of course I mean least favorite) long/steep hill and go @ 90-95% up and then jog very slowly down only to repeat the process 6-8 times. I think the hill I used to run was about somewhere between 400 and 600 meters and was on a small mountain. It is fantastic agony, though I think I’d likely have a coronary if I tried that now. Plyometrics (jumping, bounding) are also great for this b/c they will improve your power output and lean heavily toward anaerobic activity.

  3. Pingback: Long Beach Marathon Training Begins! | sneaker∙therapy

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