A Beginners Guide to Interval Running

I am a reluctant runner. There is part of me that loves the running high, but as I age, my body does not love running. When I do run, I use the interval running technique.

Anyone can start an interval running program. In fact, it’s the perfect way to ease yourself into the world of running if you’re more of the couch potato-type. However, the intensity of your interval running training will be key. Taking off too fast, or too soon, can lead to injury. You need to start slow and build up your endurance.

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Interval Running For Beginners

I was first introduced to interval running when I trained for the Honolulu Marathon in 2000 when I began to have both hip and knee problems during my training. Holy cow, has it actually been 20 years? WOW! From then on, interval running became my favorite way to run.

No matter your experience or running goals, interval workouts should be part of your routine. It offers runners a route to continuous improvement.

Runners World Magazine

There are many suggested methods for interval running. The overall formula is quite simple. Run fast (according to your fitness level) for a short distance, then slow down for a bit to recover. Then do it again. Interval running is just that simple.

Studies show that interval running also helps minimize injury for both training and running longer distances like half and full marathons.

Related: How to Start Running

What to do in-between intervals

What you do between intervals depends on your fitness level as well as the goals of your workout.

Standing: This approach works well between short, fast reps for building speed and strength. It gives your muscles and joints a chance to rest and recover.

Walking: Newer runners can really benefit from walking between jogging or running intervals. This brings your heart rate down and helps keep your blood flowing to clear lactic acid and other waste products that can lead to cramping and postrun soreness.

Jogging: If you are fit enough for a strong run taking it down to a jog keeps your heart rate up and extends the length of your workout (both distance and time) with less fatigue.

When I attended a fitness conference in 2014, I ran with a group to complete a 5K. We ran a 30/30 interval. We jogged for 30 seconds and walked for 30 seconds. I could not believe how quickly we ultimately finished and how good I felt considering I had not run in ages.

I also like a 60/60 split. When I am back into running shape, I typically aim for 4/1 split which is four minutes of running and 1 minute of walking. Give different intervals a try to see what feels good for you. I highly recommend the 30/30 option as a good way to start.

In the beginning, you want to focus on form rather than speed. Here is a great info/graphic to consider your form.

Interval Running with Good Form

7 Running Tips for Beginners. I am trying add running back into my fitness routine. Here are some great tips for new runners to get started.

Interval Treadmill Walking

If you are a true beginner, especially to using a treadmill, I recommend starting with interval walking. You can still get in a good workout. It’s great for folks who can’t run due to injury or other restrictions.

With this approach, you use the treadmill’s incline function to vary the intensity of your workout. Start with a warm-up at the pace of a slow stroll. Then increase your speed to a slightly fast walk with an incline of 1. Increase the incline for short intervals up to 2.0 for one minute, then back to 0 to recover.

  • Walk for 3:00 at 0 elevation
  • Walk for 3:00 at 1 elevation
  • Walk for 2:00 at 1.5 elevation
  • Repeat intervals for 3 sets
  • Walk for 3:00 at 0 elevation

As your fitness level improves, increase your elevation. For example, I now start at an elevation of 1.5 and bump up to a high of 6.0.

Easy Interval Running

After you try the 30/30 or 60/60 interval for a while, or just want to try something new, here is a great interval running for beginners workout:

Interval Running for Beginners

Whether you’re new to interval training or running in general,  you can change up your speed and time variables to create a wide variety of interval running workouts to continually advance your training. Getting started with treadmill running? Here is another great workout idea.

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Jenn Mitchell is a proud mom, wife and adventure seeker. She’s traveled either solo or with family to 20 countries and 36 U.S. states so far. A former personal trainer, Jenn looks for ways to keep her family fit and active both at home and on the road. Her goal is to inspire other moms and families to live happy and healthy lives.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Kris B

    Using intervals makes running fun for me. There’s a benefit for running faster when preparing for a race too, but I’ve never been one to just like to run for a long time. So this breaks up the monotony. You can also use intervals in the gym, which I did this morning on the stationary bike. There might be a science behind setting up the intervals, but I just make my own up each time.

  2. Stephanie Kayle

    Interval training is an absolute must for beginners in my opinion. Trying to just “run as far as you can” is too difficult and demoralizing when you’re new, and it’s hard to push yourself when you don’t have some kind of goal in mind. “As far as you can” is arbitrary so you can give up pretty much whenever you want, but “run for 60 seconds” is a defined goal that you’re supposed to meet, so even if you feel like giving up at 45 seconds, you can push yourself to actually meet your goal.

    1. Jesse

      Ha, running as far as I could is how I always used to do it, and needless to say I ever stick with it very long. Having a regimented interval training program makes it so much easier!

  3. Leighton

    Love this guide for beginner runners! This method can also translate into other areas of life. If you are struggling with having a good diet, you can start out by eating veggies twice a week then 3 times a week then 4 times, etc. Just an example but I really like the idea of getting into a new routine.

  4. Danu

    Wow! Great post really amazing! Amazing advice. It is worth reading your article. Thanks a lot for such a useful share.

  5. Sky Lee

    How do I calculate the distance if I don’t know it

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