There are almost unlimited possibilities for interval workouts that you can come up with; varying times, distances, intensities, terrain, and repetitions creates a huge breadth of workouts that can all accomplish different goals. As you build your fitness base, threshold intervals are a great place to be putting some focus. They help to build your anaerobic threshold, increasing the intensity, time, and distance that you can go before your muscles start to fill with lactic acid. A great example of a useful threshold interval workout is the 4x4: four intervals that are each four minutes long.
To complete the 4x4 Interval Workout:
• Look for some gently rolling terrain, either on a trail or on a road, (although any terrain can work, including even a treadmill). Pick a starting point for your first interval, and run a threshold pace for 4 minutes from there. For pace, choose a speed that you think you’ll be able to hold - but just barely - for all four intervals. The idea is that each of the four intervals should be relatively similar in terms of pace, rather than the first being much faster than the last as you tire.
• After the first four-minute interval, make note of where the finish line was, and recover for 2 minutes. Recovery isn’t lying down on the ground or standing still, but instead a very slow jog or walk.
• At the end of 2 minutes, return to the previous finish line, and use that as your start line, completing another four-minute interval in the opposite direction, back towards where you came from. If you balance your pace well, then you should finish at the start line of your first interval!
• Take another 2-minute slow recovery period.
• Complete another 4-minute interval in the original direction. See if you can make it to where you ended the first time, if not further.
• Recover for 2 minutes.
• Complete your last interval, heading back again and seeing if you can best your previous mark. Nice work! 22 minutes, and you’ve completed your interval workout!
It may take a couple of sessions for you to figure out the pacing for these, so that the last two are at least as strong as the first two. Don’t purposefully hold back at the beginning, just set a moderately quick pace, and then see if you can maintain it throughout. If you can, great job, and try bumping the pace up a notch next time. If you do this workout in the same place, you’ll start to get a feel for your improvement as you watch your finish lines get further and further down the trail.
With all interval training, a proper warm-up and cool-down is very important. Make sure that you warm up with at least 15 to 20 minutes of jogging before you start the session, and finish with a good 15 to 20 minute cool-down period afterwards. This will help your body process the lactic acid that was created during the workout so that you aren’t as sore afterwards helps to prevent injury. All told, this workout takes about an hour.
Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!