Posted December 30, 2013 02:40 am - Updated December 31, 2013 09:20 pm

Don't run longer, run smarter with intervals

With less than two months to go before the Augusta Half Marathon, you might be worried you aren't training enough to complete 13.1 miles. I felt the same way this time last year.


I was following a 12-week training plan downloaded from the Internet. After a few weeks of aggressive training - three runs during the week and a long run on the weekend - I just could not complete the long run listed on the chart.


It was around this time I discovered interval training.


Interval training involves a short burst of speed followed by a rest period, which is repeated until you can't do any more.


It can be timed intervals, perhaps a 90-second run followed by a 90-second walk. It can also be a short sprint followed by a jog.


It has been shown to increase endurance without having to do a lot of long runs. That sounds good to me.


For my outdoor interval training, I ran a 1/2-mile loop on a sidewalk. I ran fast down a straight portion of the loop, then jogged around until I reached the straightaway again.


Fast, followed by moderate running. There isn't much "rest" in the rest period of interval training.


The most I ever completed was about 3 miles of this routine until I was completely exhausted. That's the point. This is a short but tiring workout.


I did a long run on the weekend, a 4 or 5-mile run after work one day a week and interval training one or two days a week.


By following this pattern I was able to add about a mile a week to my long run until I reached 13.11 miles two weeks before the race.


Interval training can also be performed inside using a treadmill by varying the speed and/or incline.


Start with a 1-minute run followed by a 1-minute jog, then back to a run again. Continue until you are too tired to safely run or you are too tired of changing the setting on the machine. You can also pyramid your speed (see link at bottom of page).


I have to admit it, I'm not a big fan of treadmills. It's a good cardio workout (it does get your heart pumping) but it does not replace running. The tread pulls your foot along the belt and the running motion is too smooth and cushioned. It will also wear out your expensive running shoes in no time.


Running on a treadmill is like running on a sanding belt. That beautiful waffle pattern on the bottom of your shoe will be worn down unevenly. Wear an old pair of sneakers or a cross-trainer that has a flat tread.


My favorite cardio machine is the rowing machine. Rowing involves more muscles than a treadmill - legs plus back, abs, arms and shoulders. You can improve the workout by adding timed intervals.


Here's how to do intervals on a rowing machine.


Start with a 4-minute warm-up. Bend as far forward as you can, then straighten up and pull back evenly. Keep a nice, steady rhythm.


At the 5-minute mark, row as fast and as hard as you can. If the machine has a calorie per hour readout, try to keep the calorie count the same during the entire minute of intense rowing. Remember the number. If it says 750 cal/hour, that's what you will try to do each time you row your fast minute. It sounds easier than it is.


When the minute is up, slow down and relax but keep rowing. Continue those long, slow rows for another 4 minutes while you catch your breath.


At the 10-minute mark row fast for 1-minute, then slow for 4 minutes. Continue for a total of 35 minutes. The last four minutes are for a gradual cool down.


A simple way to remember this is every five minutes on the clock row like heck for one-minute.


If your arms get tired during the workout, change your grip from overhand to underhand and back again as needed (during the slow rowing periods).


When you are done, towel off the sweat, drink some water and jump on the stair climber machine. Why? Because in less than two months you will be running 13.1 miles and you are not in shape for it yet. That's why!


On the stair climber machine, your goal is to climb 131 flights of stairs in 40 minutes or less. Why 131? 13.1 miles.


If you can't do it in under 40 minutes, keep stepping until you have completed all 131 flights. You'll do better next time.


The stair climber machine will give you the muscles you need to power up the hills. The rowing machine will help give you the endurance needed to run a half-marathon.


Is this a tough workout? You bet it is.


You can thank me later.

CAUTION: Interval training is not without risk. Running hard and fast while tired may increase your chance of injury. Start off slow and ease into any interval routine.


When using the rowing machine the first few times, just get used to the motion and build some muscle before doing fast intervals.




Half-Marathon Training Beginner Program (I wish I used this training schedule last year)


Stair climber for dummies


Pyramid Treadmill Routine


GRU Augusta Half Marathon
Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 8 am

Entry Fees and Deadlines
Through December 31, 2013 - $55
January 1 - February 21, 2014 - $60
February 22, 2014 - $80