Running doesn’t have to be all about logging as many miles as possible. More and more people are discovering the real benefits of interval training and are making the switch from running far to running fast. But what exactly is interval training, why is it so effective and what are the benefits for beginners?
Interval training doesn’t necessarily mean running at highest or even high intensity. It simply describes a sequence of predefined distances or lengths of time to be run, broken up by recovery breaks in between. Depending on the goal and speed of the intervals, the breaks will either be used to recover or to continue running but at a slower pace.
Professional runners have long been using interval running to bring their performance up to the next level. In the long run, interval running helps you to run at a higher speed than would usually be possible during distance runs. For those athletes preparing for races and running events, intervals will be run at the pace they wish to run at on the day.
1) Faster weight loss
This type of running doesn’t just increase performance and speed, and is definitely not just for professionals. It also boosts weight loss – when done properly, running intervals can burn up to three times as many calories than a comfortable distance run, even if the total time spent running is the same. Because of the fast segments, the body is burning more energy, as it now has to move the same mass but at a higher speed. Likewise, the fast-twitch muscle fibers come into play during the short, fast sprints. These burn a higher amount of energy than the other muscle fibers because they work explosively and use a large amount of energy while doing it.
2) More afterburn
If that wasn’t enough, interval training also triggers the famous “afterburn effect” or “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption”, which is very much higher after intensive interval runs than after a normal distance run. This is where the body expends more energy after exercise, due to various processes taking places, including the replenishment of oxygen, glycogen and ATP stores. This can hold for up to 48 hours, means that the body is still working on (and benefitting from) the training days after training.
3) Better performance
The body adapts quickly and will get used to continuous stress in the form of training, such as distance running. This means that the effect will become less and less prominent with time. Without variety and new challenges, the body will reach a plateau in its progress and performance. To enhance the cardiovascular system and metabolism, there have to be new challenges incorporated into training. And interval running is the perfect way to achieve this. Fast intervals enhance the body’s maximum oxygen absorption, oxygen transportation (heart), oxygen capacity (lungs), and oxygen utilization (cells). Also, the metabolism is optimized and energy used more efficiently within the body. Combined, this will drastically improve performance over tine.
Some beginners stop running quickly after starting running because of common injuries caused by too much training, too soon, or because they find distance runs too challenging – or even boring. So intervals mixed with walking breaks are ideal to combat both of these problems. Even if running 3K in one go is too much for a beginner, running and walking alternately for 6K is usually possible, helping runners to build up their distance gradually. This type of running is also perfect for running with friends, as there is plenty of time for talking, so beginners don’t feel they have to go at it alone from the start. Beginners should, however, be sure to first get used to running and build up a basic level of endurance before taking on fast intervals.
Freeletics Running, a running app which offers an innovative training concept for runners, based purely on interval training, has teamed up with Women’s Running to provide a beginner-friendly interval session for those looking to give intervals a go for the first time.
This session covers 800m of running with 12mins of rest in between.