You've been building your endurance and you're feeling power and strength surging in your legs! Now is the perfect time to mix things up for an extra challenge ("Nooo!" I hear you say, but don't worry, I promise it'll be worth it!).  What is this extra challenge I hear you ask? And the answer is...Interval Training! Woohoo! Read on to find out more...
 
Interval training is a great way to get some speed in your legs and to build some quick strength. This type of training is all about building your anaerobic muscle power.

What exactly is interval training?

It means that you change the speed of your run in structured timely intervals, running at a much quicker pace than you have done up until now. For example, after a warm up you may run fast for just 2-3 minutes, and then slow to recover for 1-2 minutes, repeating until the end of the session. It’s quite different to the training you should have been doing prior to this which is all about building up your endurance and is nearer to a 5k race effort in terms of how hard it should feel.
 
You will feel quite out of breath running at this pace and your legs will start to tire towards the end of the repetitions, but try to remain focused and keep running hard but well.
 
It’s often seen as a ‘quick win’ as the speed you can gain from this type of training comes much quicker than the endurance you have built up. 
This type of training is worthwhile, even within marathon training, as it helps to build speed and strength in your legs and will also help you to get comfortable running faster. It’s often seen as a ‘quick win’ as the speed you can gain from this type of training comes much quicker than the endurance you have built up. It is strenuous on the body though, as it works the body much harder and in different ways than some of your other training, so do ensure you give yourself sufficient recovery after the sessions.
 

Not for everyone

As with all of your training, the better your endurance the harder you’ll be able to run these and the quicker you will be able to recover. For those who are newer to running, you may need to reduce the number of repetitions or the length of these so that you are able to run hard enough that you really start to feel your legs working. If you’re not comfortable with these or it feels too tiring, then you may even be best to take them out of your training and just focus on building up your mileage at slower paces.
 
With your interval sessions, make sure you run at a consistent pace throughout the repetitions. This may be hard to gauge initially, but hopefully after a couple of weeks you’ll be used to how it should feel.
runners nutrition
Try to keep the calories you are taking in nutritious and high quality as this is a much better way of helping your body to recover.

Are you eating enough?

What you eat is important throughout your training. Interval training, in particular, works your muscles hard and it’s important to make sure you refuel after these sessions to help your muscles to recover. This is also coming up to the hardest part of your training, so it is really important to eat sufficiently and well.
 
Some top nutrition tips:
  • Don’t calorie count! At this point in your training, you are much more likely to be eating too little rather than too much.
  • Eat well. As much as you can probably get away with a chocolate bar, try to keep the calories you are taking in nutritious and high quality as this is a much better way of helping your body to recover. Think of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grains, meats and fish, and dairy..
  • Always eat as soon as you can after a run – either fat or protein, such as dairy, meat or eggs. If in doubt, drink milk.
  • Keep well hydrated. It’s as important to drink enough water when you’re not running as it is when you are. You can probably manage a run without any water at all if you are well hydrated beforehand. Be careful about taking in too many sports drinks and consider the amount of ‘low quality’ calories that these contain.
  • Start to think about what you are going to eat on race day. Use some of your longer runs to practice what you might eat on the day. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a sports gel. You could try, for example, the many pressed fruit/nut health bars on offer if you want to go a bit more natural.