The Significance of Interval Training

I’m training to become a 7:30 minute mile runner.

Here’s how I’m doing it. Train with me!

Sunday night, 8:11pm

I’M COMING TO YOU live from my apartment living room having just finished the first five weeks of my personalized interval training plan and let me say, I am pretty exhausted – and not just because it’s Sunday evening.

I’ve been wanting to become a faster runner for some time now and, having finally felt like  I was done being lazy had enough time in my schedule to devote to a training plan, I knew exactly where to start.

Coach Phil Clark

I’ve worked with Coach Phil Clark of The Training Station (5th & Spring Garden) several times in the past getting sneaker consultations but now it was time to get his professional advice on a proper interval training plan.

With the post below, I’ll outline the first five weeks of what Coach Phil instructed me to do and I’ll add in additional tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the journey of becoming a faster runner.

But first – why interval train at all?

By incorporating a series of low-intenstity and high-intensity exercises varied into the workout, you’re not only able to better exercise your heart muscle and improve your aerobic capacity, but also enables you to exercise harder/ better/ faster/ stronger. It’s science.

This is the goal: Be able to consistently run 7:30 minute miles during long runs and races.

This is the plan: For 5 weeks, incorporate the following three interval trainings over the course of your week:

  • 10 x 400 meter runs in 1 minute 52 seconds. Rest for 3 min 45 seconds (don’t stop till you get enough, just walk) between each
  • 5 x 800 meter runs in 3 min 45 seconds. Rest for 7 min 30 seconds (walk)
  • 3 x 1200 meter runs in 5 min 30 seconds. Rest for 11 min (walk)
This was before I did the mile repeats for the first time. The smile was not present when I had completed 5 mile repeats.

Once your work & rest ratio are equal (meaning you’ve gotten to the point where the amount of time it takes you to run the 400 meters, 800 meters, etc. equals the amount of time you recover before starting the next one), move on to mile repeats.

  • Mile Repeats:
    Run a mile in your goal-time (7:30), rest between 2 – 7:30 minutes, then do it again 6 – 8 times. Do not rest longer than the amount of time it took you to run the mile.
  • After week 5, seriously consider taking one full week off to recover. Then go right back into interval training & mile repeats.

Read a more detailed outline of my personalized interval training plan here.

This is what I ate: Phil said that on interval days, you could eat a lot more carbs than you usually do on non-interval days, including bread, rice and pasta which I like to call The Holy Trinity. Following this advice, on days I planned to do interval training, I ate pasta for lunch (and sometimes dinner too) and fried rice with lots of veggies in it. I was also more conscious of drinking lots of water during the day because the interval training was at such a high intensity that my body needed to be hydrated otherwise exercise performance would suffer.

This is how fast I was 5 weeks ago: 7:30 miles were doable but not consistently. I mostly averaged about 8 – 8:15 minute miles. Sub-8 minute miles were definitely possible too but again, not consistent.

This is how I scheduled out the runs & interval training: Two – three runs a week plus the interval training. My schedule ended up looking like this:

  • Monday: 10 x 400 meter interval runs
  • Tuesday: REST
  • Wednesday: 5 mile run with Bala Cynwyd Running Club or 3 – 5 mile run with City Fit Girls
  • Thursday: 5 x 800 meter interval runs and occasional 3 – 5 mile run with Philadelphia Runner-led group runs
  • Friday: REST (I used to do the 3 x 1200 meter runs after work but found my legs often tired during our Saturday LSD runs and I wasn’t as fast
  • Saturday: 10 – 15 LSD run (long slow distance) with Bala Cynwyd Running Club
  • Sunday: 3 x 1200s OR 5 mile repeats in goal time

    It was really windy

This is how it impacted my life: Made me more structured about my running. After work on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays I would run myself over to the Schuylkill River Trail to get the intervals done. Wednesday and Saturday are always built-in running days for me  with the Bala Cynwyd Running Club so it was great to be able to count on five days guaranteed of physical activity in my schedule.

At first I was bummed because I’d also been wanting to run around 40 miles a week, however the intervals made it difficult to do that. My body was often exhausted after each interval training workout and definitely needed a rest day afterwards. I think when I try my next set of 5 week interval training again, I’ll try to incorporate getting South Philly Striders runs back in my schedule.

The only downside was that in order to hang out with friends on days I was interval training, I’d either have to wake up early to do the training (which let’s be serious, just doesn’t easily happen with me) or I’d have to quickly fit it in after work. While my interval training never prevented me from seeing my friends, it definitely didn’t give me downtime between work and happy hour.

This is how I did: Around weeks 3 – 4, my work v. rest ratio was equal. I found I wasn’t breathing as hard as I had when my interval training began and now, sitting at the end of week 5 in my training plan, I have run 5 7:30 miles consistently (with rests in between). Results have certainly been seen.

This is how I feel: Incredible, like my body is capable of anything.

First Set of Weeks 1 – 5:  check

I’m going to go enjoy my one week off of interval training and then celebrate with the Love Run 2016 on Sunday. Catch you later, urban runners 🙂


Add yours →

  1. Keep it up, Sam!! That’s awesome! Hope you’re enjoying your summer! Best,


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