How Interval Training Can Improve Endurance At Any Running Level

By PelotonFebruary 7, 2019

It’s a common misconception that when you’re training for distance races that you should only work on accumulating more miles over time. While that’s one part of your training, it’s also important to focus on your ability to sustain periods of tougher efforts during your workout to improve your overall endurance levels. That’s where interval training comes into play. To understand exactly how to use these workouts in your training regimene, Peloton Tread instructors Rebecca Kennedy and Matt Wilpers break it down.

The Basics

Let’s start at the beginning--what are intervals? Matt encourages us to stop thinking that intervals always need to be performed at a high intensity. “An interval is simply a period of time where the athlete is exercising at a specific intensity, which could be low or high depending on the purpose of the workout,” says Matt. “During my low-impact workouts, we still use intervals despite the fact that the intensity is super low.” Also, your interval training doesn’t need a perfect plan--sometimes it’s fun to integrate these sporadic intensity shifts during your run, says Rebecca. “Interval training can be done fartlek too, an unstructured run with unmarked targets, to have fun and keep your body guessing and excited about the workout,” she says. The word “fartlek”, meaning “speed play” in Swedish, signifies continuous training with intervals intermixed--this could mean periods of fast running mixed with periods of slower running. “Fartleks are done with hard to moderate and easy efforts throughout.” Intervals don’t always have to be done in a running environment either, notes Rebecca. “When it comes to what will be most helpful for your next race, interval training should absolutely be done both with weights and bodyweight functional training in addition to your interval runs!”

How They Work

Interval training can be completed at a variety of different intensities, although to specifically enhance endurance performance you want to work on getting stepping out of your body’s comfort zone for a more sustained time. “We typically want to stress the aerobic energy pathways as well as practice holding efforts for a longer period of time,” says Matt. “Marathon race pace efforts are great for this--the pace is slightly harder than your normal easy pace, butnot so hard that you can't hold onto for a while.” And remember to not rule out the strength training portion to improve your endurance and pace. “To get faster one must get stronger,” says Rebecca, “our interval training in both strength training and running.” As you’re planning your workouts, make sure to schedule some time to work indoors with weights--possibly a bootcamp class on the Tread or a strength training class on Peloton Digital. “I cannot stress enough the importance of both interval training indoors and out,” says Rebecca. Our joints and ligaments need to be resilient and strong to endure a long distance road race in addition to our lungs and heart being able to supply the wind under our feet.” If you’re at a beginner level, remember that there are modifications you can utilize too. “For new runners, your interval training could be a walk for the recovery portion and then a jog for the work interval or possibly a faster jog for the recovery portion and then your work interval could be at an easy run pace,” says Rebecca

Stay Safe & Track Your Progress

When you introduce interval training into your workouts, the most important things to remember is to stay safe. If you push yourself too much, this will eventually lead to injury and the possibility of not running the race you’re training for at all. “It depends on the experience level of the runner as well as the intensity of the intervals being prescribed,” says Matt. “Beginners are best advised to keep the intensity of their training sessions low as their challenge is getting their bodies used to the mileage necessary for training first--intense interval training usually do more harm than good for beginners.” As you become more experienced with running intervals generally, remember that “it always goes back to quality over quantity,” says Matt. “Your main objective with interval training is to keep the quality of each interval high so that you fulfill the purpose of the workout--that means knowing what your pace targets are going in to each interval and holding them with good form and focus.” Rebecca notes that If you’re consistent with your form, consistency, pace and recoveries as well as actually showing up to your workouts, anticipate the payoff. “The workload as you make your way through your training program, given you’ve kept up with prescribed workouts, should get easier and in turn faster over time,” she says. Another pro tip to take away is to make sure to log your progress and all the details for your training suggests Rebecca. “Keeping a journal of your pacing, the weather, time of day, location, how you felt both physically and emotionally, any lingering or new injuries, heart rate, mileage, sleep, water intake, nutrition can be super helpful,” she says, “you really get to see where you might need to make some changes or what to keep consistent if all goes well!”