Skip to Content

Run faster for longer: 6 interval training benefits for runners + 3 sample workouts

Share

Many runners have a love-hate relationship with interval training. Whether you love it or hate it, there are many interval training benefits for runners, including being able to run faster for longer. 

If you have been running consistently for the last few months but you’re not seeing any improvements in your running times, then interval training may just be the secret to unlock your next PB. 

Interval training is an excellent way to add intense aerobic and anaerobic exercises into your training routine without having to complete long traditional runs and workouts.

But what is interval running and how do you incorporate it into your training?

In this guide we’ll explore:

  • What is interval training for runners?
  • How often should runners do interval training?
  • How to incorporate interval training into your training
  • How interval training compares to other forms of speed training
  • 6 interval training benefits for runners
  • Tips on completing interval training
  • 3 sample interval training workouts

Ready?

Let’s get started!

interval training benefits for runners

What is interval training for runners?

Interval training is basically a training method that combines periods of short, intense bursts of speed with slow recovery periods of mild activity like walking or jogging. 

Along with Fartlek training and tempo running, interval training is considered a form of speed training.

If practiced regularly as part of a structured training plan, interval training can help to improve your speed, strength and endurance as a runner.

Related: How to run faster: 5 top training secrets

How often should runners do interval training?

Speed training like interval training should be done as part of a well-rounded training plan.

If your objective is to improve your speed, strength and endurance as a runner, then interval training should be done one to two times a week if you’re a beginner runner, and two to three times a week if you’re an intermediate or advanced runner.

In the next section of this guide you’ll find ways to incorporate interval training in your training plan.

Related: What is Fartlek training? 11 Fartlek training advantages and disadvantages

interval training benefits for runners

How do I incorporate interval training into my training plan?

There are a few ways to incorporate interval training into your training plan.

The most important thing is that you start low and ease into interval training, especially if you’re new to speed training like running intervals.

As mentioned earlier, aim to include one to two interval training sessions in your weekly training routine if you’re a beginner runner, and two to three interval training sessions if you’re an intermediate or advanced runner.

It is recommended you complete interval training as a standalone activity or after an easy run.

At the end of this guide you will find 3 sample interval training workouts for beginner, intermediate and advanced runners.

How does interval training compare to other forms of speed training?

Whilst interval training is popular in the running community, it isn’t the only way to improve your speed, strength and endurance as a runner.

There are other two other forms of speed training and here’s how they compare:

  • Tempo running. A tempo run should feel ‘comfortably hard’ and should be run at a pace that is 25-20 seconds slower than your 5k race pace.
  • Fartlek training. A Fartlek run is an unstructured form of continuous running with periods of fast running mixed with periods of easy running.

Related: What is a tempo run? Tempo running benefits for runners

interval training benefits for runners

6 interval training benefits for runners

Now you know about the importance of interval training, you may be wondering: What are the interval training benefits for runners?

There are many interval training benefits – from improving your speed and endurance to making you a more confident runner.

More specifically, interval training helps to:

  • Improve your speed and endurance
  • Deliver benefits more quickly compared to long runs
  • Burn more calories
  • Add more variation into your training plan
  • Make you a more confident runner
  • Improve your cardiovascular health

Improves your speed and endurance

By far one of the biggest interval training benefits for runners is the positive impact it has on your speed and endurance. 

As I mentioned earlier, in order to increase your speed you need to be experimenting with different paces during your training.

Simply put, the more used you get to running at a faster speed during training, the more likely you will be able to perform on race day.

Interval training stimulates physiological changes in your body that can have positive effects on your endurance and stamina levels. 

High intensity exercise, inside and outside of running, helps your body burn lactic acid more effectively, thus allowing you to exercise for longer before fatigue sets in.

Ultimately, interval training is considered one of the best ways to train your body to run faster and farther with more energy. 

Related: What is Fartlek training? 11 Fartlek training advantages and disadvantages

Delivers benefits more quickly compared with long runs

Interval training can be considered as one of the most efficient forms of cardio and can deliver benefits much more quickly than typical cardio workouts such as a long run. 

So if you’re short on time, or don’t feel like going for a long run, then interval training is a perfect way to fit in a run and a workout. 

Most interval training sessions last anything from between 5 to 30 minutes depending on how many intervals you are doing. 

Just be sure to adjust the intensity of the session according to your fitness levels. If you’re a beginner runner, then shorter bursts of running with a longer recovery time are best.

Related: How to fit a run into a busy schedule

Burns more calories

You may be wondering: Is interval running better for weight loss?

Many studies have shown that bursts of high intensity exercise are more effective than long, slow endurance exercise to help you burn calories and lose weight. 

While there is no best way to lose weight through running, intense workouts like interval training are better for burning calories.

So if your goal with running is weight loss, then interval training might just be the option for you. 

Related: Running for weight loss: The most effective running workouts to help you lose weight

Adds variation into your training plan

When it comes to the pros and cons for interval running vs continuous running, many runners swear by the long run to achieve their race goals.

However, there’s a lot to be said for interval training in terms of adding variety into what could otherwise be a very boring training plan.

A solid training plan should therefore include a mixture of easy runs, long runs and speedwork like interval training to get you where you need to be on race day. 

So if you’re looking for something different and like the idea of mixing up your pace, then interval training is great for this.

Related: How to keep running fun

interval training benefits for runners

Makes you a more confident runner

Interval training benefits for runners are not just physical.

There are many mental benefits of interval training that in turn do wonders for your running confidence. 

Think about it: the more interval training you do, the more likely you are to be able to run faster for longer, including on race day, which brings nothing but positive vibes. 

If you follow a structured training plan with speedwork like intervals included, you’ll be safe in the knowledge on race day that you’ve done all the necessary preparation to smash the race and achieve your next PB. 

Related: How to believe in yourself: Running and and self confidence

Improves your cardiovascular health

High intensity training like interval training has many benefits for your cardiovascular health.

By cardiovascular, we mean anything related to your circulatory system, so your heart, lungs and the method by which oxygen gets transported around the body.

What does this mean in practical terms? Your heart becomes stronger and more efficient therefore increasing the amount of blood that it can pump per beat.

The risk of heart disease and high blood pressure is also decreased. 

Related: HIIT workouts for runners: The complete guide

Tips for completing interval training

Now that you know about all the interval training benefits for runners, here are some tips for completing interval training:

  • Always warm up before completing an interval training session. A warm up is essential for a high intensity session like interval training to prepare your body and reduce the risk of injury. Aim to do a warm up for at least five minutes before for run and include light jogging as well as dynamic exercises.
  • Aim to run each interval at an intensity between 75% to 80%. Anything higher than this and you risk tiredness and burnout.
  • Use an interval runner app. There are many interval runner apps on the market nowadays that provide a simple and effective way to time and track your intervals.
  • Remember to include a recovery period in between each interval. This will give your body enough time to recover in between each hard effort.
  • If at any point you feel pain, stop! If you feel pain at any point during the interval or during the recovery period in between, stop and take a step back.

3 sample interval training running workouts

Here are some running interval training examples and sample interval training running workouts.

Beginner interval training workout

3 x 45 seconds interval at 75% intensity followed by 60 seconds recovery jog/walk.

  • Warm up for 5-10 minutes with dynamic exercises and light jogging.
  • Run for 45 seconds at 75% intensity followed by 60 seconds of light jogging or walking.
  • Repeat 3 times.
  • Perform this workout twice a week, adding an extra interval cycle every 3 to 4 weeks.

Intermediate interval training workout

6 x 60 seconds interval at 75% intensity followed by 45 seconds recovery jog, with a 60 second rest in between intervals 3 and 4.

  • Warm up for 5-10 minutes with dynamic exercises and light jogging.
  • Run for 60 seconds at 75% intensity followed by 45 seconds of light jogging.
  • Repeat 3 times, then have a 60 second rest before completing a further 3 times.
  • Perform this workout three times a week, adding an extra interval cycle each week.

Advanced interval training workout

6 x 30 seconds interval at 75% intensity followed by 30 seconds recovery jog, with a 30 second rest in between intervals 4 and 5.

  • Warm up for 5-10 minutes with dynamic exercises and light jogging.
  • Run for 60 seconds at 75% intensity followed by 30 seconds of light jogging.
  • Repeat 4 times, then have a 60 second rest before completing a further 2 times.
  • Perform this workout three times a week, adding an extra interval cycle each week.

Related: 8 ways to run for longer without getting so tired

Share