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In a training rut? Try off-distance intervals

Run odd distances to inject a bit of fun into your training program

Track Workout

If there’s one thing that unites runners everywhere, it’s our love of benchmarks and numbers. Whether it’s the four-hour marathon, the 20-minute 5K or the 6-minute mile, we all have those benchmark goals. This extends into our training, where we gravitate toward even-numbered intervals, in even-numbered sets (think 8-10 x 400m, 6 x 800m, etc.). We do these workouts over and over again because it allows us to easily compare our results from workout to workout and gauge our progress, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits to be gained by doing off-distance intervals. In fact, if you find yourself falling into a training rut, off-distance intervals may be the way out.

Photo: Kyle Porter, the Gazette

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Odd intervals

An off-distance (or odd) interval is basically any distance that you wouldn’t normally do, like a 300, 500 or 700m on the track. So instead of doing 6x800m for your workout, you might do 7x700m, or instead of 10x400m, you would replace it with 9x500m.

Why run these strange distances? One benefit of an off-distance is that unless you do the math, you may not know what a good time is for that interval. For example, you probably know what a good 400m split is, but do you know how that translates into a 500m? Likely not, off the top of your head. Instead of being locked into your usual pace, this forces you to forget your time and run by feel, which can often lead you to push yourself even harder than you might normally.

Conversely, if you’ve been having trouble hitting your times on the track, running by feel for off-distance intervals can help you out of that slump. After one or two bad workouts, it’s easy to be hard on yourself and dig yourself into a mental rut. Without the pressure of trying to hit your 400m split, you can push your body in a way that feels good, both physically and mentally, so you can bounce back into form. Running off-distance intervals can also make your workout seem more like play, making it seem more fun. If you’re having fun and enjoying your workouts, you’re more likely to stick with them and stay consistent with your training, which is the ultimate path to success.

So the next time you’ve got 10x400m on your schedule, consider switching it up to 9x500m — it might be just what you need to add some fun into your training program, bust out of a rut or simply to challenge yourself in a new way.

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