First of all, it’s important to remember that it is important to train SMART and to make sure each run and/or workout is efficient. Running intervals are a great way to train effectively and efficiently to avoid overtraining and injury.
So back to the value of interval training. There is something called MAXIMAL OXYGEN CONSUMPTION (Max VO2). This is your ability to produce energy aerobically. Basically, your Max VO2 is a good way to tell how big your “engine” is. If you have a higher VO2 max, you are able to perform more work in a given amount of time. Someone with a higher Max VO2 can run faster than someone with a lower Max VO2. Your ability to deliver oxygenated blood means you have the potential for more muscles to be active simultaneously during exercise. Max VO2 can be increased by as much as 20 percent, by using a combination of interval training and endurance exercise. Basically, the bigger “engine” or higher Max VO2 that you have the greater cardiac output you will have.
Intervals help you push yourself harder for short bursts so that you are able to build your Max VO2, then have some recovery time so you can push hard for your next interval. An example is our 1/2 mile runs yesterday with a 2-3 minute rest between each run. I’m sure you felt yourself breathing harder and deeper than you would on a 3 mile (or more) mile run.
If you are training for an endurance run, you should have 3 key runs. First, your running intervals (which we do at camp on Wednesdays). On a side note, your strength training workouts are also helping with your Max VO2, because that is interval training as well. We do short bursts of work with some recovery time between each set. Your cardiovascular system doesn’t know the difference between a running interval or a strength training circuit. If your heart rate is up, you’re training your cardiovascular system.
Going back to your 3 key runs, the second of which is a shorter long distance run where you are working on keeping a faster pace so that you are raising your lactate threshold (your ability to work at an intense rate for a longer period of time, usually more than 30 minutes straight).
The final run is your endurance run. Simply put, this is running a longer distance at a lower intensity. These are the runs where you work on building up your mileage.
Doing each of these runs once a week is all you need to prepare for an endurance run. Anything more, then you are asking for injuries and/or going to work against your own performance. The great news is that we complete the running intervals at boot camp on Wednesdays. Therefore, you can complete the shorter faster pace run one other day during the weekend, save your endurance run for a weekend day, and take one day completely off from boot camp and running on the weekend.
Please remember, it’s not about how much or how hard you train. It’s about how SMART you train!