When designing running workouts, a coach can manipulate three elements of the training plan to elicit certain physiological adaptations. These three elements are: (1) the time or distance of the interval; (2) the speed or pace at which you need to run the workout; and (3) the amount of rest you can take between efforts. While many people are familiar with the ability of a coach to change the distance and pace of an interval – and how this can affect fitness – the rest portion of a workout is often an afterthought or the forgotten element in the training equation, especially for those writing their own schedules.
Actually, manipulating the rest of a track workout is something I find to be particularly effective and one of the best ways to gain fitness. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts regarding the importance of aerobic development, improving your aerobic threshold is one of the most effective ways to gain fitness and race faster. By varying the rest during interval workouts in a unique and innovate way, you can get the benefits from both a tempo run and a speed workout.
Typically, tempo runs or threshold runs are assigned at somewhere between your 10 mile and half marathon race pace. These paces will typically take you right to the edge of your lactate threshold, but prevent you from going over the edge and flooding your system with lactic acid. But, what if you want to work on running faster (mechanics, speed, form, and efficiency) but not deviate from the long-term goal of progressing aerobic fitness? Simple, you implement faster paced intervals at 8k to 10k paces with a short amount of rest.
These intervals allow you to run much faster than a tempo run (usually 6-7 percent faster), but because of the short rest, you can maintain a threshold effort. During these threshold intervals, you’ll often barely catch your breath before starting the next interval, but that means the workout will also go by quickly.
The added bonus of performing these intervals are the pacing practice and strategies you can develop. If you start out too fast during the first interval or two, the short rest will come back to bite you during the middle and latter part of the workout. You may feel good going faster for the first three or four intervals, but the big hairy gorilla will jump on your back during the second half and make the rest of the workout a struggle and a test of wills.
Not for the faint of heart
When performing threshold intervals, it is important to pay attention to the paces and the rest. If you begin to feel tired during the workout and your paces start to slow, make sure you continue to maintain the timing of the rest. You can slow down if you need to, but keep the rest the same.