Interval Training August 30 2015

Are you looking to boost your fitness level and want to build endurance, gain speed and feel stronger while doing so?  If you're thinking, "Yeah - where do I sign up?", you're not alone.  Endurance athletes from marathon runners to first-time 5K'ers are incorporating 'Interval Training' into their exercise routines.
I am a huge fan of 'Interval Training' - alternating between running and walking, or inserting bursts of speed within the same sport, throughout my marathon training and racing.  Why?  The slower segments allow me to catch my breath, use different muscles and gain energy for the next round of running or faster walking, which always seems to come up frighteningly fast! 
I am going to lean heavily on the research and methods popularized by Jeff Galloway, the premiere expert of Run/Walk and interval trainings. In a world of marathon runners, he has made the formerly taboo word 'walking' not only acceptable, but beneficial - and my fellow followers and I are grateful. 
Why Use Interval Training:
- Builds Endurance: Imagine you are a sports car - traveling at a continual speed of 80 mph. You may reach your destination quickly, but you'll run the risk of more wear and tear, and fall low on fuel.  Same things happen when you run your body at the same high speed for a long distance - fatigue increases, energy decreases and your engine may start to sputter. 
But, by interval training, aka shifting gears, before your muscles get tired, you are able to recover quicker and go longer at a consistent pace.  Research shows that intervals also lessen the chance of repeated impact injury because you are using different muscles at different times. 
- Builds Speed: By taking scheduled, and still brisk, walk breaks, your body conserves energy and reduces muscle fatigue.  That allows your body to kick into a higher gear when the run, or faster walk, segments restart, and results in faster overall times.  According to Galloway, his research shows that you can drop an average of 7 minutes on a half-marathon course and 13 minutes on a full marathon course.  Personally for me, after incorporating run/walk, I have seen my pace per mile times drop an average of 1 minute.  
- Shakes Up Your Routine: I crave routine and despise boredom, so the change-up of run-to-walk is made for me.  Wearing my trusty beeper, which is set to my 3-minute run/1-minute walk cycle, I anxiously await the sound that signals me to shift my speed and/or sport.  The response may be somewhat Pavlovian, but it is effective - especially on a treadmill where the terrain does not change.  
Interval training also helps lessen that overwhelming feeling of tackling a large amount mileage - if I look at 3.1, 10.2, 13.1 or 26.2 as a whole, I will feel anxious.  But breaking it into a manageable number of run/walk, speed walk/walk, segments is more digestible. 
How To Start:
- Find Your Happy Pace: When asked on CBS sitcom, "How I Met Your Mother", about how to train for the NYC Marathon, Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris), says, "1. Run. That's it."  Now, for some, that is true, but employing an Interval Training takes a tad more thought.  You want to find a ratio of running or speed walking and walking that works for you.  Start off with :30 run/speed walk and :30 of recovery walk, lather, rinse, repeat.  Then, as your body gets used to that cycle, increase both in :30 to 1:00 increments until you find your rhythm. 
The key is to never be so tired that you feel you have to slow down - like waiting for the red gas warning light to come on before you stop to fuel. If you are running on fumes, you'll soon have to stop.  
- Walk with Purpose: Your slower-speed segments are not meant for strolling - you want to walk at a pace that keeps your heart rate from dipping too far below that of your faster-segment (Galloway notes that your heart rate chart should resemble gently rolling hills, not huge spikes).  This way, you still get the benefits of the recovery time without having to ramp up your speed so fast at the change.  

- Stick To Your Routine: On race day, I hear the "go" command and, too often, I am swept up in the excitement of the day and the anxiety of not keeping up with the crowd.  I mistakenly ditch my routine and go with the flow...and pay the price miles later when I start to sputter.
By sticking to my tried-and-true routine, I keep my energy even throughout.  And, if I need to switch things around to accommodate weather or extra stops, I can - interval training is malleable. 
- Have Fun!: If you remember the "HIMYM" episode I mentioned earlier, Barney finishes the 26.2 miles, but is so stiff and sore, cannot stand up to leave his subway seat.  With Run/Walk, you'll feel less sore and stiff, and finish stronger.