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Try this: a new way to time your intervals

This one small adjustment can make a big difference in your training

In most cases, interval workouts are written with the following structure: a work period of a specific distance with a goal time for the athlete to hit, followed by a rest interval of a specific number of seconds or minutes. A classic example of this would be 10 x 400m with 1:30 rest. In this case, the work and rest intervals are timed separately, and your rest is the same no matter how fast or slow you run. Timing the work and rest intervals together, however, has a number of benefits and gives you much more flexibility in your workout. Confused? Keep reading to learn how this small adjustment in your workout structure can make a big difference.

Timed intervals

This type of workout structure is very popular with swimmers. The premise is simple: instead of timing the rest, you time the entire interval, and the rest is whatever is left over after you’ve finished the work period. For example, let’s say the workout is 10 x 400m. Instead of taking 90 seconds of rest after each interval, you’re going to start each work period every three minutes. This way, if you run your first 400 in 1:28, you get 1:32 rest. If you run the next 400 in 1:32, you get 1:28 of rest.

Build pain tolerance with stretch intervals

This is a great way to structure a workout if you’re someone who tends to stress about your performance in workouts because it removes some of the psychological pressure to perform. If you’re running a little slower than usual, your rest is adjusted naturally to make up for the slower pace. If you’re running faster, presumably you need a bit more rest in order to run the same speed in the next interval, and this workout structure accommodates that as well.

This is also a great way to structure a workout for groups, when you likely have people of different capabilities. It allows everyone to start at the same time, regardless of how fast they’re running, which can help build camaraderie and a sense of teamwork.

Track Workout
Photo: Matt Stetson

Short intervals to improve your VO2 max

More example workouts:

  1. 4-6 x 800m every 5-6 minutes
  2. 4-5 x 1K every 8-10 minutes
  3. 10-12 x 200m every 2 minutes