Interval training, taking it a minute (or 2) at a time

I planned on doing a post on interval training for a while – nothing technical, just my thoughts + experience. I know that some of you hate it with a passion, but I am a strong believer that that’s how you improve your endurance and speed in the long term. Those little bursts really do go a long way. They train your body and legs to move a little faster than they’re used to and push you slightly past your comfort zone… even if it’s just for a few minutes. A few of my friends and readers asked me how I started running and how to get past that certain mileage plateau.  I probably talked about how I started running before (if not, I’ll do a separate post on that) but on the latter question my answer is “Interval training!”

I personally love interval training! I love it not only for its benefits, but because it breaks down my workout into short little intervals. Instead of thinking about running for 30 minutes, for example, I think about running for the next 1/4 mile (~2 minutes). Of course I have to do it all over again once that interval is over, but I take it one interval at a time :) I actually look forward to these workouts because they always seem to fly by. On that note, I was just NOT feeling it yesterday. I got on the treadmill (by the way, I prefer the treadmill for interval runs because it’s a little more precise/ takes other variables out of the equation – although doing intervals outside is definitely a great workout too. Probably even harder.) and the second I started moving I was just “over it.” It wasn’t physical at all; I was running at the same speed as my previous runs and felt fine. I just felt mentally exhausted and wanted to get off asap. I knew I needed to fix my attitude, otherwise I’d be in for a torturous workout, so I got off the treadmill for a few minutes! I did a few laps around the perimeter of the gym and thought about how I was just planning on doing a post about how all you have to do to complete an interval run is take it a minute or 2 at a time. That’s it! It was quite ironic that this is the exact workout that seemed to defeat me and not the 8 mile run I completed on Sunday. I was going to tell you that you can do anything for 2 minutes, and then I realized… I can do anything for 2 minutes! So I got back on that treadmill and did just that! I had only 5 intervals left at this point (out of 7 I planned on). They were still not the super energetic ones I’ve had in the past, but I still completed my workout and felt great about it!

How I do my interval runs:

  • Warm Up: I start them like any other workout with a brisk walk to warm up my muscles. The walk after 0.20 miles (for some reason this seems to be the magic distance) becomes an easy jog for about 0.30 miles. Then I’m ready to start!
  • Intervals: Choose the number of intervals you will do that day and their distance. Yesterday I had 7×400 on my schedule (that’s 7 intervals ~ 1/4 mile long). You can start with a smaller number of intervals and increase them by 1 once or every other week. You can also do shorter or longer intervals (I’ve done 200 meters and 800 meters before; 400 is my favorite!). Set a pace that’s faster than you’re used to but that you’ll be able to do all those intervals at without dying 😉 I used to do really fast ones when I was just running a few times a week and had plenty recovery time, but now I set it a little lower because I don’t want to completely kill my legs and risk injury during a run the very next day. So anyway, you do let’s say a 1/4 mile interval, then recover for as long as you need to (I usually recover between 0.15 and 0.25 miles). Recovery can be a brisk walk or a slower jog (for example my intervals yesterday were at 8.0 mph and recovery runs at 7.0). You may be breathing a little hard during your intervals, and the recovery period should get your breathing down to normal. Recovery intervals may also get longer as you get more tired. It’s okay! The point is to finish the number of (fast) intervals you planned on. It does get easier and when you get comfortable with the speed of those fast intervals, your recovery time will diminish. That’s when you know you need to increase the speed of your intervals (we’re all about challenging ourselves here, right?)!
  • Cooldown – I like to jog for a little bit longer after my planned interval session, and finish with a brisk walk again.
  • Stretch!

Hope this was helpful to some of you 😀 Onto food…

I had hummus for breakfast! This is a FFL english muffin with peanut butter hummus on the left half and maple walnut hummus on the right half (added a few walnut crumbles to that one for extra fat for satiety) + 1/2 banana and red grapes. Yum!

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Mid-morning snack: 1T almond butter + rainbow carrots (delicious, but NOT good running fuel, btw – partly responsible for my terrible run, it was just sitting like a rock in my stomach)

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Lunch: leftover mac and cheese + V8 vegetable juice + an organic apple

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Post work/pre-dinner snack: chocolate mousse hummus straight out of the container (I’m obsessed with this stuff!!!!!!!!! It tastes like black bean brownies)

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+ unpictured red grapes + a fudgy mocha brownie (dinner was only going to take 30 minutes but I was still starving and impatient, so I figured I’d have dessert first 😉 )

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Btw, I brought a bunch of these brownies to work and everyone LOVED them! Boys that usually want the full fat stuff were going back for seconds. I think this is the first time I’ve got rave reviews from them. Usually they say my stuff “tastes healthy.” 😕

So you’d think I spoiled my appetite for dinner with all of those snacks… nope! For dinner I followed this recipe from Cooking Light for seared mahimahi with edamame succotash. It used up 3 things our of our freezer (corn, edamame and yellowfin tuna) so I was happy about that, but also this dish was so flavorful! I absolutely loved the little marinade for the succotash and I learned a new trick on how to make roasted peppers. Sweet! The fish came out perfectly cooked as well. Overall – great success (say it with me in your best Borat accent 😆 )

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Mmm, perfectly marinaded veggies…

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And that’s Wednesday for ya! I’m super excited about meeting some bloggers at JP Licks today, then I’m off to a pre-wedding celebration for a co-worker of mine. My co-workers don’t know about the blog, so I probably won’t take any pictures. We’ll see… I may just tell them. :mrgreen:

How do you feel about interval training?

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15 comments to Interval training, taking it a minute (or 2) at a time

  • Dessert hummus? I need to try to find that!

    I like intervals because they do make the workout go much faster. Also, it makes the workout shorter!

  • Pam

    Your food today looks SO good! Great blog, btw!

    http://www.alovefornewrecipes.blogspot.com

  • I like interval training because it really does improve your endurance and it also makes my heart rate go up–resulting in lots of sweat. It’s a great work out!

  • Kate

    I love interval training it definitely makes a workout easier to get through.

    Thanks for a post on exactly how you do your interval training, it’s great to see an exact plan!

  • First of all, I think I might need to get me some of that dessert hummus! Drool…..

    Second, great post! I am a firm believer of interval training as well to improve endurance! It can be as easy a sprinting between street light posts. Jog/walk one, sprint one & repeat!

    Good stuff girl 😀

  • sister inna

    i really have no excuse for not interval training… except… it’s summer out and i am not doing as much indoor stuff. but in the fall — i will def give this a shot. basically i have been putting it off BECAUSE it is more challenging. but i think i will be up for it once my bootcamp sessions are done with 😉
    i want that mac and cheese maybe you can make it FOR me? hee hee heeeee

  • intervals are awesome, well, they are good for you. even though they may not feel awesome :) And I walk in between my intervals (b/c of my asthma), still see improvements!! mmm, dessert hummus… i bet i could make that…

  • Elina

    Pam – thanks! 😀

    Kate, glad it was helpful and I wasn’t just blabbering for no reason 😆

    Heather – I love the idea of alternating speeds between different street blocks. Thanks for that tip! :)

    Innz, you can always try Heather’s little tip there, although I think you get plenty of running in your bootcamp class now. I have a feeling you’d actually like interval training. I do (well apparently except for yesterday. lol) Oh and on the mac and cheese, I think you can handle that one on your own 😉 Denied. Haha

    Ttfn – things I never think … “i could make that!” The ingredients list IS very simple though – chickpeas, evaporated cane sugar + flavorings (like pb, pumpkin, whatever). That would be so fun if you could recreate them. They are really yummy! :mrgreen:

  • Eve

    Great post! I think interval training is so important – burns tons of calories and helps improve your speed. I agree: you can do anything for 2 minutes :)
    And that dinner does look like a great success!

  • kimszym

    I think you could take a picture of the cake with no one wondering. I love seeing wedding cakes.

    I wish we had a Jp LIcks.

  • I love intervals, but it is important to recover during your recovery, which would normally be a bigger difference. When I used to run 400s, I did my 400m sets in 1:30, which is about 10 mph and recovered at probably 10 min miles. But doing intervals slower with higher recovery paces is still good- it’s just usually called fartlekking!

  • I love intervals! You’re absolutely right – they usually do make the workout go faster. It’s much easier to concentrate for 2 minutes than for 30! I did 400 repeats today too – it was fun. :)

  • Hey it was great meeting you today! I hope you have fun at the Summit this weekend. I’m sorry I can’t be there!

  • Elina

    Kimszym – we actually just went to a bar/restaurant to celebrate, and I took pics of my food! I just went for it. I think people maybe wondered what I was doing but everyone was chatting enough that it wasn’t too obvious. I’m glad I was able to share my delicious meal with you all… and sorry there was no wedding cake 😉

    Kate – fartlekkeing?! I need to look into this 😆

    Pam – it was really nice meeting you too. Good luck with the half training! 😀

  • Interval runs on the treadmill are my favorite! Confession.. they are pretty much the only thing I can do on the treadmill cause I get so bored otherwise.

    My favorite intervals to do are:
    * 1 min, 30 seconds at sprint, 1 min, 30 cool down – usually for 20 minutes. Warm up before, cool down after.

    * Gradual intervals, for about 40 minutes on the treadmill. Warming up and then for a half hour – start at your normal running pace, then every minute up your speed by 1mph. Increase speed three times, then take it back down to your starting pace.

    * For a super quick metabolism spike interval!!! It only takes six to eight minutes… really great after a good strength workout. Get your legs moving with a quick jog, then do intervals of 20 seconds all out sprinting (I usually do about 10mph but it is whatever is really working it for you), and after twenty jump off onto the sides of the treadmill for 10 second. Be REALLY CAREFUL, and jump back on for another twenty seconds, and off for ten. Repeat the cycle six to eight times… Its really exhausting, but it spikes your metabolism in a really awesome way!!

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