Intervals…Are they for Me?

By Tina Bond

The very first time I ran 6 miles it was tough.  At the time I was training for my very first half marathon and had no idea how I was going to finish 13.1 when I could barely finish 6.  I trained up to 9 miles before I even thought about trying intervals.  I tried it because I train in Florida, in the summer.  If you have ever been to Florida in the summer, you know how hot and humid it can be.  If you don’t know what it’s like to train in the heat/humidity, it’s like running in a sauna with a wet washcloth over your face.  Not fun.

First of all if you are not sure what interval training is, it’s basically walking and running at different paces while you run.

Me and Jeff Galloway at the Princess Half Marathon Expo. He’s super nice and always ready to take a picture or sign a bib!

Me and Jeff Galloway at the Princess Half Marathon Expo. He’s super nice and always ready to take a picture or sign a bib!

Which intervals you choose all depends on your current level of ability.  Some people do 5:1 (5 minute run: 1 minute walk), some people do 45:30 (45 seconds run: 30 seconds walk).  I was very skeptical about intervals at first because I thought if I did intervals it would mean that I was a wussy and I didn’t really believe that intervals could help.  For me, I wanted to be able to run 13.1 miles all the way through without stopping.

I chose Jeff Galloway’s half marathon training plan because Jeff Galloway is an Olympic athlete, the innovator of interval training, and if he could run 13.1 miles injury free then it had to be good stuff!

When I first started running intervals it was very odd.  All the stopping and starting was very strange and I wasn’t really sure how to do it.  As I continued to train I got better at the stopping and starting.  I’ll give you a tip; it’s not an abrupt stop.  It’s more of a gradual slow down to a walk.

As time went on I noticed that my times were actually BETTER with intervals than when I was running without intervals.  I couldn’t believe it.  Not only that but I wasn’t feeling so sore after my runs.

I had to do a lot of experimenting with intervals when I first started out.  It took me a while to find one that I liked, and even now I will change it up depending on what I am doing.  I’ve done longer intervals (4:1), short intervals (45:30) and lots of things in between.  For my long runs I will typically do a 1:00:30.

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These are some of the splits for my fastest 10 mile run. Check out the run interval (1:00). I was able to maintain under 10 mm for all of my run intervals! Even ran an 8:50!

Intervals aren’t just for recovery during or helping you get through those long training runs.  I also use intervals for speed work!  When I first started using intervals for speed work, I’d do a 30:30:30.  That’s a 30 second walk, 30 second run, 30 second run really fast, repeat.  I’d typically do this for 3 miles, one day a week.  Sometimes I’ll do the 1:00/30 for speed work, but I’ll run for 1 minute at an 11-12 mm then run between an 8:30 -9 mm for 30 seconds.  It has definitely helped improve my times.

I went from running my very first 15k (9.3 miles) at 2:05 to 1:45 a little over a year later.  That’s a 20 minute improvement!  I’m still working on my half time.   I ran my first half in February in 3:32 to 2:48 in August this year.  I should preface that I was injured my first half and did a lot of walking in order to finish.  I did the Iron Girl Half in Clearwater and finished in 2:52:38 which is probably a more realistic time to compare.  There were BRIDGES I had to cross during this race and I didn’t train on any bridges!  I digress!

My immediate goal is to run a half at 2:30 or better.  I was on track to do that at the Space Coast Half Marathon, but I got sidelined with an overuse injury and was not able to set a PR (personal record).  My long term goal is to get my half time under 2:00… and yes 1:58 is perfectly acceptable!

I will say this about intervals.  When I first started out they were a life saver, especially in the summer.  Just knowing that I could take a 30 second walk break helped me so much physically and mentally.  30 seconds is enough time for me to regroup and get back at it once that interval is over.

One of the big questions that I hear is “How fast is your walk interval supposed to be?”  I always try to keep my walk intervals to at least a 16 mm.  In many of the races I’ve done a 16 mm pace is required anyway, so I figured it was a good goal to aim for.  That’s just what I try to do.  Intervals have also definitely helped me to increase my speed; however you really have to push yourself if you want to improve your speed.  It isn’t easy but the results are fantastic!

I’ve been running a lot since I started distance running.  I can average anywhere between 20-30 miles a week.  I attribute that totally to Moon Joggers!  I’ve even gotten to the point where I can run 13.1 miles straight through, but I still have a lot of areas where I need to improve.  Intervals will be a key component of my training, whether it’s for speed or to help me get to mile 26.

This was on my race shirt for the Princess Half. I wanted to make sure people knew I was doing intervals. Runner etiquette is important.

This was on my race shirt for the Princess Half. I wanted to make sure people knew I was doing intervals. Runner etiquette is important.

If you are interested in trying intervals, go for it!  It really is a fantastic tool and you can always work your way up to where you want to be.  It just takes time.  I will also say this one last thing about intervals.  There are some people who do not believe that doing intervals is truly running.  Some will say “Oh well you did intervals so you didn’t really run all those miles.”  Whether you run intervals, a 5 minute mile or a 15 minute mile, a mile is a mile!  You’ve accomplished a great task and don’t let anyone try to tell you different!  Intervals do work!

Have intervals worked for you?  What intervals have you tried?  Drop me a line on Facebook at One Small Step at https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/onesmallstepmoonjog

Tina lives in Orlando with her husband, Jim. When she’s not jet setting across the country with her job or running, or training for a race, she enjoys reading, photography, music and going to Disney!! Tina is currently training for her first marathon, the Walt Disney World Marathon in January. Keep reading to see her progress!

Marathon training update:  My very first run back out after my month long, doctor ordered, injury rest period was the Space Coast Half Marathon.  It did not go very well at all.  I lost my endurance and got really tired, but I was able to finish.  The next couple of runs have not gone too well, but I do feel like I am getting it back.  I just completed a 20 mile run this weekend and while it could have gone better, I did finish it!  I’m feeling a little more positive and confident about my training and the marathon coming up!

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