Monday, February 11, 2013

To interval run, or not to interval run? That has been the question.

When I started running, I began VERY slowly: 60 seconds at a time was about all I could take for the first several weeks; I gradually decreased the walking intervals as I added on running time in 30-second increments, then 1-2 minute increments, until I was able to run for 20 minutes. It took a little over two months to reach my goal, but I felt it was the safest way to allow my body to adjust to running.

Once I reached 20 minutes I decided to try one of the Hal Higdon 5k training plans, but I've stalled out on it several times. However, I've learned an important lesson in the past few days: I've become mildly obsessed with distance and pace, which causes me to poop out and want to lay down on the trail about halfway through a 1.5 or 2-mile run, and turns me into a zombie for the rest of the day. The plan started out something like this:

Week 1: 1.5 mi / 1.5 mi / 1.5 mi
Week 2: 1.75 mi / 1.5 mi / 1.75 mi
Week 3: 2 mi / 1.5 mi / 1.75 mi
Week 4: 2.25 mi / 1.5 mi / 2.25 mi
Week 5: 2.5 mi / 2 mi / 2.5 mi

...and so on, until you reach 3 miles. I was supposed to do Week 5 this week, but I struggled with last week's long runs (ok, so it's long for me, anyway), and my legs are SO sore today from doing squats and lunges yesterday that Andy suggested that I revisit interval running...and I did! And guess what? It felt pretty good! I did 2 minutes running + 1 minute walking for 10 rounds, which still gave me 20 minutes of running time (only a minute or two more than my 1.5 mile runs have been averaging). Lesson learned.

I think that for now I am going to continue to "revisit" interval training, and focus more on gradually being able to comfortably run for 30 minutes or so instead of frantically trying to improve my pace or distance. Plus, we've just started adding strength training into the mix, and I don't want to injure myself. I'll continue with the 2 + 1 ratio next time, then probably follow a schedule that looks something like the mess posted below, and go up a level every two runs or so. Who knows: I might feel good enough to progress faster after a while. It will take approximately eight million years to get to 30 minutes, but that's okay. :)

2 min run, 1 min walk x 10 (20 minutes running)
3 min run, 1 min walk x 7 (21 minutes running)
4 min run, 1 min walk x 6 (24 minutes running)
5 min run, 1 min walk x 5 (25 minutes running)
6 min run, 1 min walk x 4 + 2 min run (26 minutes running)
7 min run, 1 min walk x 4 (28 minutes running)
8 min run, 1 min walk x 3 + 6 min run (30 minutes of running from this point)
9 min run, 1 min walk x 3 + 3 min run
10 min run, 1 min walk x 3
11 min run, 1 min walk x 2 + 8 min run
12 min run, 1 min walk x 2 + 6 min run
13 min run, 1 min walk x 2 + 4 min run
14 min run, 1 min walk x 2 + 2 min run
15 min run, 1 min walk x 2
16 min run, 1 min walk + 14 min run
17 min run, 1 min walk + 13 min run
18 min run, 1 min walk + 12 min run
19 min run, 1 min walk + 11 min run
20 min run, 1 min walk + 10 min run
21 min run, 1 min walk + 9 min run
22 min run, 1 min walk + 8 min run
23 min run, 1 min walk + 7 min run
24 min run, 1 min walk + 6 min run
25 min run, 1 min walk + 5 min run
26 min run, 1 min walk + 4 min run
27 min run, 1 min walk + 3 min run
28 min run, 1 min walk + 2 min run
29 min run, 1 min walk + 1 min run
30 min run!

So, that's the plan. Any suggestions are welcome!


  1. You didn't say how far you ran in the 20 minutes. If it was less than 1.5 miles, it sounds like you added too much too fast. How many 20 minute runs did you do before increasing? I would think since you can run 20 minutes, you should do that for a week or two before increasing. You should be able to talk without trouble while running, or you're going to fast. Good luck - running is a blast.


    1. You've mentioned everything I've suspected; it's in my nature to be impatient and want to do too much too soon. I don't remember how many 20-minute runs I did before moving on, but it couldn't have been many, because I was impatient. I'm not sure what my distance was because I wasn't using GPS yet, but I have a feeling it was shorter than 1.5. Yesterday I ran nice & slowly, and it felt SO much better...kind of like when I shortened my gait in the first few weeks, and my shins suddenly felt better! Thanks for the encouragement, Jack. :)

    2. Another good training program (VERY similar to what you've already done) is the Couch to 5k plan. Again, it's really similar to what you did to start out with so you may not even need to start at the very beginning - you could probably start with Week 2 or 3, especially since you've already successfully done 20 minute runs.

      My best running advice is listen to your body. I aim for one or two long runs a week, and then take it slow and steady as necessary. You'll make it to 30 minutes, but it's best to do so without hurting yourself!