Interval running - RunTeach

I’m not good enough to run intervals!

I know what it’s like. You want to get faster but at your level of running you don’t feel good enough to run intervals. Sprints and fast bursts of running are for those elite club runners over there – not for you. You’re quite happy going for an easy run and maybe one day you’ll do intervals. A few more parkruns and then you’ll think about it.

I hear you!

Crowded Start - no intervals

I hear you, I do. But let’s take a journey through a typical Saturday morning 5k…
“Go!” and you’re off. You spend the first few frustrating minutes weaving in and out if all the slower runners. Looking more down than ahead so you don’t trip over all those feet. You can hear everyone cheering, but rather than enjoy it you have to fight to get clear of the crowd. Watch out for that dog, that pushchair – arghhhh! You get annoyed at yourself that you didn’t start closer to the front, but hey – you’re not good enough for that!

Snail Finish - no intervals

You run harder to get some space, weaving and dodging. Before you know it, you’ve run the first kilometer far too fast! That’s another PB out the window. “Ah well, there’s always next week” you convince yourself.

Be Different

Now imagine something different… “Go!” and you’re off. The crowd behind you is cheering as you run. Looking straight ahead, you are confident and strong as your start strategy unfolds. There is room around you. While you still need to watch out for slower runners in front, they are spaced out and no longer a trip hazard. You are able to run at your pace and you run the first kilometer bang on target. Now you can focus on getting that PB feeling strong and in control of your breathing. Bring it on!

In Control - used intervals

Let’s Pretend

Imagine that you control your breathing. Imagine that you have the confidence to run at your pace. You have the room off the start line to allow your arms to drive and your knees to lift. Imagine that you know you have a kick – that you can sprint when you need to.

Fluid Running - used intervals

Now Stop Pretending!

The good news is that you can make this a reality. Yes, even you!  Let’s face it, most of us don’t want to run intervals because they are hard. We are afraid something in our body will break or fall off. We imagine the elite runners are far more resilient than us. “If the ordinary runner like me does a few sprints, it would kill me!”. “I’m not built for speed work, my legs are too heavy”.

We make all the excuses, but we are scared. Scared it will hurt. Scared we can’t do it. Scared it will somehow destroy what we love about running. So scared, that we take the easy option because it is exactly that – easy. But easy doesn’t get us better in anything we do.

We convince ourselves that we don’t care about speed. We don’t care about getting a good time. “I’m doing it for the experience”. “I’m not bothered by my time”. But as soon as we have finished an event and we did get a good time, the first thing we put up all over social media is “New PB yay! Wahooo!!!”. “I did it!”.

Let’s stop pretending to ourselves that we don’t care. In all the years that I have been running & coaching, I have rarely met anyone who genuinely doesn’t care about their race times. Let’s hit that fear head on and get some speed work done. And you know what, it doesn’t have to be as painful as you imagine…

Let’s Play!

Serious Intervals
Is this how you see intervals and speed work?

Intervals come in many guises – and they don’t need to be serious. One of the most playful ways of adding speed work into your running is by doing fartleks. Fartlek is a Swedish word that means “Speed Play”. A typical fartlek session may involve a couple of km at an easy pace. Then you pick a landmark (lamppost, bin, tree, etc) and say to yourself: “Right, I’ll start a sprint from there and continue on for 2 lampposts (trees, bins etc)”. Then return to your easy pace and repeat multiple times. Vary the distance of each piece of hard running, and vary the intensity. You can also vary the intensity and length of the recovery sections. Doing this with other runners and taking turns calling out the start/end points can be brilliant fun. You are in control, and you can challenge yourself as much as you want.

If you run with a group or club they may do skills sessions that involve interval-based games. These are fantastic for building up the fundamental skills needed for running. They build the speed work right into the session without you even realising. There are so many ways that this can be formulated, and it’s lots of fun.


The result of adding speed work into your running is unmatched. Your energy system is being challenged from the top-down. You are building a higher threshold and tolerance for more efficient fuel use. You are also challenging your nervous system and encouraging it to integrate the various parts of your body for faster and more efficient movement. Your breathing will improve, you’ll get stronger and fitter – and you’ll PB more often! By the way, if done properly, nothing will break or fall off – apart from perhaps a bit of body fat!

If you do an appropriate warm up and cool down, you are also helping to reduce your injury risk – across all your running.

So next time you are asked to join in with a skills, speed or intervals session and your immediate reaction is “no way – that’s not for me”…


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