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Picking Up the Pace: Your Guide to Starting Up Interval Training

"So, what pace should I hit when I'm doing interval training?" Great question, and honestly, the answer is a little bit of everything.


Think back to when you first started running. You probably did a mix of walking and running, right? Run a bit, walk a bit, and slowly lengthen the runs and shorten the walks until you're running continuously. These days, with the internet, we've got access to a boatload of plans that can take us from couch to 5k or even to running an ultra-marathon. Most of these plans have one thing in common: they keep you running at the same steady pace.


Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's a solid start. But if you're here, it's probably because you're ready to try something new. You've heard that intervals are the way to go for getting faster, but maybe you're scratching your head about what pace to set for those speedy bursts.


If you're new to the world of intervals, it's a smart move to focus on your sprint game first to increase the range you have to play with between your jog pace and your all-out pace. I'm talking about strides—short, fast intervals (15-30 seconds) where you go all out while keeping good form. Imagine you're one of those 100m sprinters in the Olympics!


Don't worry about the pace your watch is telling you; it's not the boss. You can set it up to buzz when you're done each interval, or just run from one lamppost to the next and disregard the watch all together. Think of it like you're back on your elementary school playground, racing your buddies without a care for the ticking clock. Your recovery can be a walk or jog back to the start, but make sure you're catching your breath enough to nail the next one.


Start with 4 strides two to three times a week, but make sure you have easy or off days in between. Later you'll be able to incorporate strides anywhere, but since they're new right now, you want to treat them like a hard day. You can work your way up to 10 strides per session when you feel like you're up for more. If you're doing them in between the same two lampposts, you'll notice that you're getting faster as the weeks go by. You'll also start to feel your running motion getting more fluid with quicker leg turnover.


Remember, though, this is just the start. As you get the hang of it, you'll want to mix up your speeds and how long you're running for. Generally, the rule of thumb is the faster you go, the shorter the interval. If you're eyeing a particular race, like a 5k or a marathon, it's key to get some practice at the pace you're aiming for in the race. In the last 6 weeks leading up to race day, you'll focus on this a bit more, but it won't be the only thing on your training plan. Switching up your pace is like giving your body a full workout—it keeps things interesting and stops you from falling into a running rut.


So there you have it. All that's left is for you to grab your shoes and get out the door. If you're thinking, "I need a little more guidance on this interval thing," I've got you covered. Let me know what's holding you back and I'll try to help you out in a future blog post. Together, we'll keep the fun in the run, evolve your pace, and enjoy every step of the journey. After all, running's not just about the finish line—it's about loving the run-up to it.

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