Training method - intervals

Article updated on April 15, 2020

Interval training is characterized by the insertion of useful breaks during training. A useful break allows the person training to recover from the previous effort, but not completely. Usually, breaks in interval training are quite short: 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Workouts are generally qualified by the length of the interval:

Short intervals: 15 to 90 seconds

This type of interval is generally used to develop the VO2 Max (the maximum amount of oxygen you can use in a minute) and maximum aerobic speed, which is how fast you run when using 100% of your VO2 Max.

This capacity is extremely important for 5K and 10K races and remains very important for longer events like the half marathon or the marathon.

Average intervals: 90 seconds to 5 minutes

This type of interval also trains the VO2 max significantly, but since the running volume is greater, it can also be used to train what is called thelimit aerobic endurance or high intensity aerobic endurance.

Long intervals: 5 minutes and more

This type of interval training requires much less VO2 max, but more significantly stimulates limiting aerobic endurance.

Then, we can further subdivide the training into intensive and extensive, a bit like agriculture. Intensive training lasts a shorter time, but is performed at a higher intensity, whereas intensive training uses a higher volume, with a lower intensity.


  • Extensive Short Interval Training: 40 x 400m @ 85% VAM / 30 ”rest
  • Intensive short interval training: 10 x 400m @ 100% VAM / 1'30 ”rest
  • Extensive medium interval training: 12 x 1km @ 85% VAM / 2 ′ rest
  • Intensive medium interval training: 5 x 1km @ 94% VAM / 3 ′ rest

The important thing to remember is that intervals can be used to achieve different workout goals.

What is the point of making intervals?

1. Interval has the advantage of allowing a greater volume of training to be done at a given intensity. For example, a runner who has a VAM of 20km / h will be able to do a workout of 12 x 400m at 20km / h, so a total of 4800 meters at target speed.

If he did continuous training, he could hold this speed for about 5 minutes, or 1,66 km.

By doing intervals, this therefore allows the athlete to do a greater volume of training at a given speed.

2. according to Weineck, interval training causes heart changes:

  1. During the stress phase, the high heart pressure induces an enlargement (strengthening) of the heart muscle.
  2. During the recovery phase, the heart absorbs part of the blood pressure by dilation, which allows an increase in the elasticity of the heart chambers.

3. Intensive interval training uses fast-twitch fibers and helps improve gestural efficiency.

4. Extensive interval training places greater strain on the slow-twitch fibers.

5. Interval training uses a lot of carbohydrates and therefore improves the efficiency of glycogen use and oxygen transport to the muscles.

6. Interval training is the best way for an already trained runner to improve his performance. On the other hand, for the beginner runner, it is not so clear.

In summary, interval training helps to:

  • Improve VAM (a lot for intensive, medium for extensive)
  • Slightly improves aerobic endurance
  • Improves gestural efficiency
  • Allows you to learn to manage efforts
  • Allows you to familiarize yourself with other sensations of effort
In summary, interval training is a must if you've been running for a while.
There are plenty of ways to combine the number of repetitions, rest times and length of intervals.
This training method can therefore be used to work almost all components of physical condition. Obviously, as in everything else running, it is essential to be careful when inserting intervals in the training and to go there gradually.
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About Daniel Riou

Holder of a bachelor's degree in Kinesiology from Laval University, my goal is to help make the world more active. Here's how : Corporate Challenge / / Cité-Limoilou race / Grand Duke Trail Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn Continuing education: Various trainings by La Clinique du Coureur Program `` Conscience d'Affaire '' of the Chamber of Commerce of Quebec (in progress)

7 thoughts on “Training method - intervals”

  1. Hello Daniel…. I have been a half marathon runner for a few years. I do my workout 3-4 times a week without ever pushing hard! I signed up for the marathon this year and I feel like I'm peaking in training because I don't do any interval outings! I don't mind… .but I don't know anything about it… .I start with what?!? How do I calculate?!… .. in short I am lost !!! I'm not aiming for anything grandiose but I want to be able to finish my marathon without being completely drained !!
    Merciiiii :)


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