Speed Sessions (Intervals Sessions) have been proven to enhance health and running performance alike.
"But I'm not a fast runner", " I can't run fast" I hear you say. Well as a running coach to many recreational runners and a life long runner myself I'm here to tell you it doesn't matter what pace you run, if you add in one quicker run session each week relative to your running pace, your running will improve.
Lets start with "What's an Interval Set or What we mean by Speed Session?
Intervals are running at high speed for a short time separated by slower running or a stationary rest period.
you might warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of easy jogging and then complete six or eight 30-second sprints, each followed by 90 seconds of slow running, before cooling down with another 5 to 10 minutes of easy jogging. Interval training, or HIIT, as it’s commonly referred to, has been intensively studied, and its health benefits are well established for runners of all abilities.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Physiology reported that runners who did three HIIT sessions per weeks, each lasting just 12 minutes, saw health benefits equaling those achieved by other subjects who completed five, 40-60-minute low-intensity workouts per week. Now we aren't saying to go out and do 3 speed sessions a week, that will no doubt lead to injury and burnout - runners that I write running programs for will do no more than two speed/interval sessions per week in the build up to a fun run.
What do you need for a Speed Session? - Here's the easy part!
There's no need to go out and buy some running spikes then head to your local "fancy" athletics track.
You can get a quality speed session done on your local footy or soccer ground or even on a flat path or cycleway (just beware of cyclists).
To get the best quality interval session done ensure you're able to run uninterrupted repeatedly. This ensures consistency and makes it easier to keep track of your times and progress over time.
As we mentioned earlier you don't need spikes or starting blocks, but a nice lighter pair of running shoes really help when it comes to interval sessions. Most tracks and obviously grass fields are a lot more forgiving on the feet so there's less need for chunky supportive shoes. We guarantee slipping on a pair of lighter running shoes will have you feeling faster even before you start the session! These shoes should only be used for your speed sessions and of course RACE DAY! So there's no need to go out and spend another $200 on a pair of shoes.
These Kiprun UltraLight Running Shoes from Decathlon will do the trick and won't break the bank! They're ON SPECIAL for $65.00. Bargain!!
How Much and When?
Interval sessions can be quite stressful on the body, a little goes a long way, and more than a little is counterproductive. Low-intensity exercise, meanwhile, being much gentler, can be tolerated in larger amounts and indeed must be done in larger amounts to yield maximum benefits.
For example; If you're getting ready for the SHM Half Marathon in May simply add one speed session to your running routine each week for the next 4-6 weeks. If you're not sure where to start why not try one of our 10-12 week running plans?
What does an Interval Session look like?
It's important to make sure you're doing a good warm up before you start the actual speed session - so a nice easy 10-15min jog will do the trick.
HOT TIP! If you are doing the session on a track or oval do your warm-up in the opposite direction you'll be running during the speed part. Running in circles at speed can sometimes cause irritation to the inside leg so best to mix it up on your warm-up and cool down.
The set below would perfect for a recreational runner who's Personal Best at parkrun (5km) is 31mins and their goal is to break 30mins.
Interval Sessions are meant to feel hard so be prepared to feel a little uncomfortable, but that's when the magic happens so stick at it. Have some water nearby and have a sip every 5mins especially on those hotter days. We also recommend having some food in your tummy but not too much... we all know how that could end.
Enjoy running FAST!
Ability is what you are capable of doing.
Motivation determines what you do.
Attitude determines how well you do it.
~ Lou Holtz
Run to improve your lifestyle.
Accredited Running Coach - Athletics Australia.
Department Manager - Running - Decathlon.