Beginners Guide to Running Intervals

Beginner’s Guide to Running Intervals

Beginners-Guide-to-Running-Intervals

Interval running, the practice of alternating periods of running and walking, is quickly becoming a routine sight on sidewalks and running paths around the world.
 
Once primarily used as a way to build up to continuous running, the interval approach has become a running style in and of itself. I know lots of runners who choose to use the run/walk interval style as a way of running, even though they could run the whole distance if they wanted to.  

For beginners, it is a great way to ease into running while allowing your body time to adapt to the stress of running, and for experienced runners, it can allow you to cover greater distances (and sometimes run faster) because you can build small periods of recovery into your run. 

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Benefits of Running Intervals

Aid-in-Weight-Loss-Management

Aids in Weight Loss Management 

Interval running promotes weight loss and helps burn calories. 

Reduced-Stress-Levels

Helps Reduce Stress Levels

Interval running improves your mood and hormonal health. Interval running helps reduce cortisol, notoriously known as the ‘stress hormone’.

 Improved-Cardiovascular-Health

Improves Cardiovascular Health

Interval running is an effective method to enhance your cardiovascular system and metabolism. 

How to Run Intervals

Interval running is an easy way to stay fit and improve your performance as a runner. Depending on your main goals you can choose the type of interval running that fits your better. There are two broad categories of intervals: 

  • Timed intervals
  • Distance intervals

Timed Intervals 

 Timed-Intervals

With timed intervals you run for a specific period of time and then take time to recover in between each run segment. The recovery time can be as long as your running segment or even a bit longer if needed.

Example: Run for 1 minute; walk for 1 minute

Tools you need for timed intervals: A running watch,  An interval timer, or an app for your phone, like the Tabata Timer

If you are looking for a great running watch, check out our Garmin GPS Watch Buyer’s Guide.

Distance Intervals 

Distance-Intervals

With distance intervals you run a specific distance and then walk or jog for approximately the same time it took you to run the interval. You then repeat this for the duration of your workout until you have completed the total distance you were planning to run.

Example: Run 1 mile; walk 10-15 minutes

Tools you might need: The GPS watch like Garmin Forerunner. It has a lap function that will let you see what pace you have for your distance intervals. A running watch can also help you track your speed per particular distance.

User-friendly apps like MapMyRun and Runkeeper may also come in handy. You can specify location and distance and check out the routes that other people have saved.

Types of Interval Running Workouts for Beginners

Run/Walk Method with Timer

Run_Walk-Method-with-Timer

The most popular way of running intervals is running and walking with a timer. There are a lot of great resources and training plans for interval training including our own GetFitFor5k training plan.  Basically your workout is broken up into run segments with a short walking segment used for recovery. The length of your running and recovery segment is varied depending on your fitness level or goal.

Here is an example of how this training method works:

  • Ready the timer
  • Run 2 minutes
  • Walk 1 minute
  • Repeat for a total duration of 30-45 minutes

The goal is to systematically increase the running portion over time. 

Note: If you need some assistance, RunBuzz is here to help! We have programs for any level of running experience inside our PaceBuilders® program.

Running Intervals On Treadmill

Running-Intervals-On-Treadmill

One of the best tools for running intervals is a treadmill. You can find it in every gym and train with comfort regardless of rain and snow, which is such a common excuse for beginners to skip the running session. 

Here is how you can start with:
  • Run for 1/10th of a mile at the speed you can sustain
  • Walk for 2/10ths of a mile
  • Don’t hesitate to slowly increase speed or shorten the walking interval

When you get comfortable, try to increase the run and sprint intervals and the number of reps.

Note: If this type of interval running is a bit hard for you, start with walking on the treadmill with an incline. Example: Walk  2/10th of a mile at a 5% grade and then walk 2/10ths at a 0% grade. 

Interval Running Tips for Beginners

Increased Confidence

Running isn’t easy. Even thinking about going for just a short run can be overwhelming, especially for a beginner.
 
Run-walk intervals can help make running manageable.
 
Knowing that you only have to run for the next 30 seconds, or minute, or whatever your interval might be is a huge confidence booster. Instead of groaning, “I’ll never make it”, you can affirm, “I can do anything for one more minute.” This can make all the difference between hitting the pavement or staying on the couch.

Go Farther, Faster

Rather than running until your legs are exhausted, take walk breaks before your legs are fatigued. This helps keep you going longer and feel better while doing it (bonus: you’ll also feel better the day after).
 
Why?
 
Because walk intervals give your running muscles a short rest, allowing them to come back refreshed for the next round of running. In other words, they allow you to extend your workout without feeling like you’re going to die.
 
Here’s an even cooler fact: while it may sound counter-intuitive, most people employing the run-walk approach actually log faster times overall than when they run without taking walk breaks. Thanks to the recovery effect, your pace while running an interval is faster than when you’re running continuously. This speed increase makes up for the slower pace during the walking intervals.

Listen to your body – whatever feels best for you is the best way to run.

Additional Running Resources

PaceBuilders™ Online Run Coaching - PaceBuilders is a premium online run coaching program for runners of any experience level. With two unique, affordable coaching options to choose from, you can learn to run faster, run farther and run injury free. Inside PaceBuilders, you can work directly with experienced, RRCA/USATF certified running coaches or you can choose to follow our self-coached program and take advantage of unlimited access to all of our training assets including training plans, runner-specific strength training plans, nutrition information, mindset, race strategy, pacing guidance, LIVE monthly Q&A sessions, private client community and more!  

Runner's Toolkit - Get access to 30 days of free coaching tips by email and get your #1 running question personally answered by me, just for signing up. Plus get free access to our private Facebook community where other RunBuzz community members gather for support, camaraderie and general shenanigans.

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Steve is the founder and head running coach of RunBuzz.com. Steve is host of the RunBuzz podcast and founder of PaceBuilders, a complete online training program for runners. Steve is a RRCA / USA Track and Field Certified Running Coach and resides in Lewis Center, Ohio.