Why I Use Intervals to Train for a Half Marathon

memphis

Running. It’s a love/hate relationship. I am not always motivated to get out and run, but once I do it, I am so glad I did. It has become somewhat therapeutic for me. I am able to work through so many things as I run. It hasn’t always been that way. Four years ago,  I couldn’t run from my front door to the mailbox. I had no desire to run. If you saw me running, something was terribly wrong and you better start running too. Yet here I am several years later, a runner. As I was going through my fitness transformation, I heard about a 5K training class and I thought about it. I just knew I did not have the cardio vascular endurance to run 3 miles, so I was hesitant. My friend and trainer, Victoria, assured me I would be successful and that I should try it. She explained that it was an interval based program, so I wasn’t expected to run the entire class. I convinced a few friends to join me and off we went. We started with a 30 second jog  and a 1;30 min walk. We did this for about half and hour. I was stunned to see that I could do it. Over the course of 6 weeks, we increased our intervals. It all led up to our goal race and I ran my first 5K. I had walked many 5Ks before, but this was the first time I ran. My sister-in-law, Adrianne, and I ran together, only walking through the water station. We ran the rest of the race. Keep in mind, this was less than 8 weeks from when I started. When we went on to train for our half marathon, we continued the interval training. My trainer explained that running intervals helped reduce the risk of injury to the body and improved recovery time.  To be honest, the idea of running 13.1 miles didn’t really appeal to me. My sweet friend Amy asked me to train with her and other friends for the St Jude’s 2012 Half Marathon in Memphis. She had a personal connection with the hospital and we all joined together to run and raise money for St Jude’s. I barely had completed a 5K, but I wanted to try and train for the half. Interval training had worked for me before, so now I wanted to see if it could get me through half training. I completed my first half marathon in Memphis in 2015  and have gone on to complete 3 more.

Since becoming a fitness instructor, I have also helped coach 5K and half marathon training groups. I enjoy watching the transformation of these non-runners into women who go on to finish half marathons and marathons. I began reading whatever I could find on interval training so I could explain why it reduces the risk of injury and aids in a faster recovery. In my case it is partly psychological. I know that every 3 to 4 minutes, I get a short break. Our group usually runs a 3:1 interval ( run 3 minutes, speed walk 1 minute). At times we have gone to 4;1, but 3:1 is a comfortable fit for me. Interval training has shown to increase cardiovascular efficiency and to increase tolerance to the build-up of lactic acid. This leads to improved performance, greater speed, and endurance. I actually am able to complete a 5K faster when I use intervals than when I run straight through. Interval training also helps avoid injuries associated with overuse.  When training for longer distances, giving the body short breaks is helpful to the joints.

So, if you are one of those people who can’t run 20 yards, interval training may be the right fit for you. I realize that it is not for everyone. However, for those of us who are not natural born runners and want to try, interval based training is a good option. Want more information? Please email me at jennifer.alameda@embracingahealthylife.com. Happy Running!

-JA

Jennifer Alameda is a working wife and mother with a passion for fitness.

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