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A few years ago I slipped into a running rut. I had a few 5K and 10K races under my belt, but I wasn’t really interested in training for a half-marathon. I was looking for a way to change up my running routine without losing endurance or increasing distance. That’s when I fell for interval running, which alternates periods of high-intensity work and low-intensity recovery periods. Whether you’re an experienced runner or just getting into a groove, interval running is a great way to develop new running skills and get a solid workout.

The benefits of interval running are abundant. In addition to keeping your workouts interesting, intervals can improve speed and endurance for seasoned runners. You’ll boost your ability to run hard without going into oxygen debt, which means easier distance running. Intervals are frequently touted as one of the most efficient workouts, maximizing your effort for short sprints and shortening your overall workout time. This type of workout produces an afterburn effect, in which the runner continues to burn calories at a higher rate for hours, and sometimes even a full day. Lastly, interval running is good for your overall health. This type of workout decreases your resting heart rate and improves anaerobic condition and muscle strength. It’s also extremely effective for weight loss, particularly targeting stubborn belly fat.

There are just a few things to know before you jump into your first interval run. You should establish a solid running base before trying intervals. You need to be comfortable running before going all-out, even for short periods. Spend about a month building your stamina steadily before attempting an interval workout. The interval run you choose should match you physically as well as psychologically. An experienced runner can incorporate moderate to difficult intervals into their training several times per week, while a new runner may want to start off with one easier interval run. Make sure to choose a workout that motivates you to keep on moving.

Here’s a great beginner interval run to get you started:

10-20-30 Intervals

  • Warm up with 5 minutes of walking
  • Jog or walk at an easy pace for 30 seconds
  • Run at a moderate pace for 20 seconds
  • Run at your peak speed for 10 seconds
  • Repeat 5 times (or more for experienced runners)
  • Cool down with 5 minutes of walking