Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Intervals - Love to Hate Them

Intervals. I hate them.  I love them.  I have to do them today, and I am not into it right now. 

I know I know.  Intervals make you faster. In tech-speak, they improve oxygen delivery to muscles and therefore are a great way to be able to run faster and further.  I got it.  But they hurt, and since I train alone, are really hard to motivate for.  But having done them once a week for the past month, I have to say that I have seen an improvement in my speed and endurance.

I was looking for a little motivation to get me out there in the cold for my 6x 1 min fast, 1 min easy lunch run planned today.  Did I mention it is 10 degrees and the wind is howling? Hello excuse demon.  But I am sure I can shake him off.

I started doing a little research to try to get my lazy procrastinating butt out the door. Don't worry, I won't get too technical, but there is some great info out there.  I read a really great blog by The Running Man.  Intervals should be a key part of marathon training, but they should be run a little slower than if you were training to peak for a 5k or 10k.  I like that word - slower, I should have stopped reading there.  I read on to see he says you know, slower, like only 90% of your maximum heart rate. Ha. Great.  So you still need to run fast enough to hurt a little.

The Running Man is lucky enough to have been tutored for the New York City Marathon by Terrence Mahon, the coach of US running phenoms Deena Kastor and Ryan Hall, just to name a few.  I am not going to go on with a long, boring drivel filled with acronyms (MHR, AHR, LT) that I realize are important but I really am not interested in.  I will summarize what he says about some reasons to do intervals:
  1. It will teach your body to clear out the lactate acid (you know, that feeling in your legs that begs you to quit.running.please.) that builds up much faster than if you didn't do intervals at all. 
  2. Running at a higher effort makes the muscles work in different ways, so you are recruiting more muscle, which could be a nice bonus come mile 20 in the marathon.  It is sort of a plan to avoid bonking in those tough miles.
  3. When you run faster, you open up your stride.  I find that after a string of long slow runs, my hips, hams, and quads get super tight.  Yeah I know, I need to stretch more.  But, one interval training period a week (along with regular stretching) will help keep these muscles from getting quite as tight.
OK OK I get it.  Intervals are the key to me reaching my PR in the Sugarloaf Marathon this spring.  I guess I better get running.  One last word from Coach Mahon and the Mammoth Track Club, "Elevate your expectations."  I like that - I think I will.

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