Interval Sessions: A way to develop your training

Structured training is the backbone of running progression, catering to both amateurs and elite runners alike. In this Q&A format, we delve into the intricacies of integrating interval training sessions into your regimen.

What is interval training?

Unlike a standard run, interval training involves alternating between fast running phases and recovery periods. A renowned interval session in France is the 30-30, comprising 30 seconds of quick running followed by 30 seconds of recovery, repeated, for instance, 10 times. This results in a 10-minute session, with 5 minutes dedicated to speed and 5 minutes to recovery. Starting might feel challenging, but, like any training, familiarity breeds comfort.

What is the purpose of interval training sessions ?

When engaging in a race, the recovery process can be time-consuming. Sustained, rapid efforts take a toll on the body. By breaking down the effort, recovery becomes more manageable.

Crucially, alternating running phases with recovery phases allows for longer runs at a consistent pace. Take, for instance, the renowned MAS (short fractional) sessions. You might run 10x400m with a minute of recovery between each 400m. The total duration of such a session exceeds 10 minutes. In a continuous run at your MAS, you might max out at only 6 minutes.

Participating in fractional sessions enhances various aspects of your well-being, including physiological (cardiac, pulmonary, muscular, etc.) and mental capacities. Pushing beyond the pace of a jog also works wonders for refining the efficiency of your stride.

What pace should you aim for in interval sessions?

Interval training accommodates a broad spectrum of paces, spanning from sprinting to ultra-marathon distances. For instance, sprinters may engage in 6x80m sprints with a generous 5-minute recovery between each 50m, while marathon enthusiasts might opt for a series of 3 × 20-minute runs, also with a 5-minute recovery. Notably, the shorter the distance, the longer the recovery period.

The fractional pace you choose hinges on the specific distance you’re preparing for. With nuanced adjustments, your pace should align closely with the target race pace. Regardless of the distance, it’s paramount to tailor your pace to ensure you can successfully complete the session without ending in agony or sprawled on the ground 😉.

How does a split session unfold?

Before diving into your split session, a proper warm-up is crucial. Initiate with a 15 to 30-minute jog to gradually elevate your heart rate. Depending on the session’s intensity, incorporate dynamic stretches to conclude the muscle warm-up. Conclude the preparatory phase with 2 to 3 accelerations at the pace of the upcoming session, lasting around fifteen seconds each, ensuring you commence at the right tempo.

Now, the session can commence! As you progress, take the time to understand your rhythm, resisting the urge to push too hard during the initial phases. In the midst of the session, as it becomes more challenging, persevere; you’re not only refining your physical prowess but also honing your mental resilience. Upon completing the session, revel in the sense of accomplishment!

As the session winds down, invest in 5 to 10 minutes of slow jogging. This cool-down period aids in promoting recovery, allowing your body to gradually return to a resting state.

What type of session can you do?

The versatility of split sessions allows you to choose between track workouts or taking to the great outdoors, depending on your preferences. Starting out, opt for flat courses, and as you progress, consider incorporating sessions on hilly terrain, particularly if you’re gearing up for races with elevation challenges.

One intriguing variant is the fartlek, a split session originating from Sweden, translating to the “game of paces.” Originally designed to engage with the environment, these sessions encourage playful elements, such as accelerating on hills. For your initial split sessions, challenge yourself by setting targets—whether it’s speeding up to the next bridge or reaching a specific tree.

If you have a race on the horizon, incorporating interval sessions into a structured training plan is an excellent strategy for achieving your goals. Tailored to your experience and fitness level, these sessions are designed to suit your profile. However, it’s crucial to exercise caution—avoid overexertion and prioritize proper recovery between each session to optimize your training journey.

At what pace should you approach recovery phases?

For seasoned runners with several years of experience, a gentle trot is preferable during each recovery phase. This approach prevents a drastic drop in heart rate between intervals, maintaining the cardiovascular engagement. Beginners, on the other hand, can opt for walking during recovery periods.

In the context of MAS (short fractional) sessions for accomplished runners, the goal extends beyond merely sustaining the MAS pace. It involves pushing towards your maximum heart rate for as long as possible. Maintaining an optimal heart rate during recovery is crucial; if it drops too much, reaching the maximum heart rate becomes challenging. Adjustments can be made by running slightly faster during recovery phases or by reducing the recovery time.

For those seeking to incorporate interval training sessions into their race preparation, the RunMotion Coach app is an invaluable companion. This digital coach provides detailed session content, including corresponding paces tailored to your level and preferences. Throughout your preparation, the app offers guidance and motivation to fuel your progress. 😉🏃‍♂️

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Mailis Durif-VarambonMailis grew up in the mountains, where she went hiking and biking every weekend. She loves outdoor activities where she can relax at the end of the day. At RunMotion Coach, she is responsible for communication management.