The fastest runner usually does not win a distance race. It's the runner who slows down the least!
Interval training, as most everybody knows, is a great way to improve your stamina and speed for all distances. The theory is that you can perform more work with rest intervals than you can through continuous running. Higher intensity, shorter duration work stresses the muscle fibers and stimulates adaptations you cannot achieve through just distance work. You'll also improve your biomechanics and adapt neurologically so fast running will not be foreign to your leg muscles. Finally, you'll give that anaerobic threshold and VO2 a little added boost.
The beauty of running intervals is variety. You can make them progressively harder by increasing the number, decreasing the length of recovery, increasing the length of each interval, or finally running them faster. Another plus is you can be finished up with a great quality workout in as little as 30 minutes.
The standard coaching advice is to run shorter intervals (400 meters or less) to work on speed, and longer intervals (800-1,600 meters)to work on strength. It's a good idea and it works, but sometimes it pays to try something different. Once in a while I like to use a longer interval to work on speed!
Normally, the rest period between each repeat interval is approximately the same. If you run 400s in 90 sec., you are recovered enough to go again in another 90 seconds.
If you find yourself in a rut following this routine, here is the idea. Run 800 meter repeats at your normal 400 meter pace, then double your rest period. What I like about this approach is after the 2nd or 3rd one the second half of each interval comes close to 5K race simulation. At least that what it feels like to me.
Another recommendation is to try and run them progressively faster, so you are pretty much maxed out during that last 400.
This is the kind of workout that you only want to do once a week, and probably not more than 3 or 4 times in a row before going back to your normal stuff. I would be surprised if your workouts or race times don't improve!
C) 2007 Dave Elger all rights reserved.