Types of Interval Training

Whilst ORCs Tuesday night sessions are generally steady paced hour long runs, Thursdays are the preserve of more intense ”interval training”.

The aim of interval training is essentially to improve a runner’s speed. It does this by working the body harder than during a steady run, but in short periods, so you can then recover (during an rest period or “interval”) before repeating the process. Amongst other things, the short but harder exertion improves the bloods ability to carry oxygen; the hearts ability to pump blood; and the muscles’ strength and stamina – making us quicker runners!

A virtually infinite number of workouts can be created by varying the four elements (Distance-Interval-Repetitions-Time) of interval training. A few of the more common types follow.

Repeats: The same distance, done a set number of times. Repeats of 200, 400, 800 meters 1km or 1 mile are the most common in club sessions,. The shorter distances are run at a quicker pace than the longer distances. The coach on the night can help you with pacing advice, but a good rule of thumb is to run the 1 mile or 1k repeats at your current 5k race pace and use that to guide the pace you run the shorter distances at. Repeats can also be run at anticipated race speed to develop a sense of pace and avoid going out too hard.

Repeats sessions should run the repeats at an even pace throughout the session to derive the greatest training benefit. Particularly uneven efforts (e.g. sprint the first repeat but jog the last two) won’t greatly improve stamina and increases the risk of injury.

Ladders: Progress from shorter to longer repetitions; i.e 200, 400, 600, 800, 1000. Recovery interval can be constant or increase. Ladders can also be run long to short.

Pyramids: An up and down ladder together, i.e. 400, 600, 800, 600, 400. Advanced runners may be able to do multiple pyramids.

Kenyan Hills: A circular route on a hill. Each circuits the runner remains at the same pace for 5mins. A short recovery before repeating any number of times.

Kenyan hill sessions should run the repeats at an even pace throughout the session to derive the greatest training benefit. Particularly uneven efforts (e.g. sprint the first repeat but jog the last two) won’t greatly improve stamina and increases the risk of injury.

Cut-downs: Designed to improve one’s finishing kick. Several longer repeats are done to create fatigue, then the runner performs shorter, faster reps to develop the ability to run hard when tired.

“Ins-and-Outs”: Usually done over a mile or longer, accelerate the straightaways and jog the turns, or sprint 50 meters, jog 60.

Indian runs: As everyone runs in single file, the last person in line sprints to the front. When he gets there, the next person goes, and so on.

Relay races: Pick teams, then pick a lane, then pick a workout. Try six times 400 meters with two-person teams, the last place team buys Gatorade.

Handicapping: “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Runners stagger their start of each repetition by ability level, from slowest to fastest The faster runners try to catch the slower ones.