Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Distance Running Tip- Intervals and When to Shut it Down

The benefits of interval training are anything but secret, so I'm wondering why so few runners take advantage?

More on that later, but today I wanted to share a piece of advice that I think is important when it comes to running intervals- how do you know you've done enough?

This morning I did 6 x 800 meters in 2:54, 2:55, 2:52, 2:54, 2:51, 2:57 with 90 seconds recovery. Intervals 2,4, and 6 were run into a slight headwind, so no surprise they were slower.

Why only 6? My general rule of thumb on intervals is when times drop off by more than 3 seconds, it's time to shut it down. While I was pretty confident I could squeeze out another low 2:50s on number 7 with the tailwind, I certainly was NOT keen on finding out what I had left for number 8 (I don't know why this is but I NEVER run an uneven number of intervals- it's always 4,6,8, 10, or more).

I like to compare each workout with a recent similar effort. Last week I did an interrupted 9 x 800 and averaged 3:04 (I know I said I never do an uneven number but this was one screwed up workout!). Today I ran 10 seconds faster (2:53.8 ave)! That's a huge improvement for 800s, and in terms of progression, a good reason in my mind NOT to incease volume. If I'd done those 9 all under 3 min last week, then perhaps I'd reconsider.

Another key indicator for me is this- if I can't jog the cool-down, that's a sign that I overextended in the workout. Today I was close- walking back to the apartment sure felt a lot better than slow jogging, so I split it and did a little of both. Clearly any more than 6 would have put me over the edge.

Other thoughts floating around in my head include an upcoming 10K race in just 4 days and the idea that I'd like to go out for an evening jog to pad my weekly miles. Another 2 intervals run to exhausion may affect both.

One other note- stopping at 6 leaves me 2 good options for my next interval workout- adding 2 more or cutting the rest to 60 seconds. If I was gearing up for a 5K, I'd probably cut the rest and keep it at 6, but with a half marathon as my primary goal, next time out I'll go for 8 and leave the recovery at 90 sec.

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