Interval Running for Beginners

Natalie Cecconi
Written by
Last update:

Why Run Intervals?

Interval training is used by almost every competitive athlete. It's one of the most time-efficient ways to improve your overall fitness .

The basic purpose of running intervals is to raise the levels of lactic acid in your muscles. This fatigues muscles so they can't perform as many repetitions of an exercise.

Interval training consists of alternating bursts of intense running with recovery periods.

Here is a step-by-step guide for interval training.

If you only had 30 minutes to workout every day, you'd make the most of it, doing full-on workouts, alternating with active rest, for as long as you were able.

This is the approach that will help you get the biggest bang for your buck.

You can run intervals in a park , on a treadmill at the gym, or even on an outdoor track , if you have one nearby. Read on to learn how to properly train using this simple system for getting in shape quickly.

How to Run Intervals

Timed Intervals

Do you know what interval training is but don’t have the skills to practice it yet?

In this post, I’m going to introduce you to interval running and interval training with full timed guides.

I’ll also provide a beginner program to help you up your fitness game so you can start running like the pros!

If you’re ready to take on your first training program or you’ve been practicing for a while but would like to up your game a bit, interval runs are a great training tool.

You take time to jog at an easy pace, which raises your metabolic rate, and then, you shock and condition your body by taking intense, quick, and short bursts of running.

These tough bursts of running help you run longer and faster before your next break.

Interval training is also a great way to mix things up if you feel like you’re stuck in a fitness rut.

It lets you test out different running paces and see what works for your body.

Distance Intervals

Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

Interval running is a popular form of speed training for all levels of runners. Interval running allows you to get the best workout in the least amount of time.

It targets your cardiovascular system and improves your running fitness by training both your aerobic and anaerobic systems.

Interval running is ideal for beginner runners and for people who have a hard time committing to a long run. It is also a great way to prepare for a marathon and other races.

Pace Key Interval running requires you to run at target pace for a set distance, then recover at a walking pace for a set distance. The distance between your target and recovery paces is based on your current fitness level and is called the stride length.

For example, in a mile workout, let’s say you are targeting a 8 30 minute mile and you are a beginner level runner. Your stride length would be equal to 400m.

This means that you would run 30 minutes at a 15 minute mile pace, then walk for 400m before resuming another 15 minute interval.

Once you get more advanced, you can increase both your stride length and the number of intervals.

Pace Key Pace: Select from Fast, Faster, Fastest, and Pace Yourself.

Fast – Fastest pace Possible

fastest pace possible Faster – excellent race pace

Fartleks: The Weird Intervals

Fartleks (Swedish for “speed play”) are intervals of fast running, slow running, walking, and jogging that during a single run. Added into your training program, fartleks can help improve running performance.

If you’re a beginner just getting into running or you’re recovering from a layoff, adding a fartlek training program can help you get started. They’re easy to implement, and you can do them anywhere, as long as you have some available running space. One of the great things about fartleks is you can create them to fit your own level of fitness. The formula for creating a fartlek is simple: Run 15 seconds and walk 90 seconds.

How do you start a training program? Start by doing a 30-minute run every other day for a couple of weeks, then add a 30-second interval to the end of your 30-minute run. If you’re a beginner, start with a 90-second walk, then "recover" with running. No matter what your level, it’s important not to overdo it. Increase the intensity of the intervals slowly so that you can adjust and avoid injury.

6 Interval Workouts

Interval is a term used to describe changes in speed and intensity during your run. Interval training for running is one of the workouts you need to add to your training. If you are looking for a simple yet powerful workout, interval training is your way to go.

First, let’s define what interval training is. By definition, Interval training is the execution of multiple repetitions or sets of a given exercise or activity separated by intervals of rest.

The intensity of the interval training can vary but for the purpose of this post i.e. Interval Running, your intervals are going to be a full on hard run followed by a slow jog or walk. Here are 6 Interval Workouts proven to be effective for beginners.

Run/Walk with Timer

If you want to get into interval running without building up to it too quickly, you should try the following training plan. It will guide you through a basic run/walk training program.

For your first interval run, start off with a run/walk ratio of 30 seconds of running followed by 60 seconds of walking. Repeat this sequence throughout the entire run.

After a few minutes of warming up, begin the sequence by running 30 seconds and then walking. As you reach minute 3, let yourself rest for 60 seconds and then back to the run/walk sequence. At minute 5, rest for 90 seconds and then continue running. Continue this cycle until you complete 5 minutes worth of running.

Rest for about 2 to 3 minutes in between intervals before beginning again.

Another version of a beginner run/walk training plan involves alternating between running and walking for an entire length of time (such as 60 seconds). For instance, in the first minute of this training plan, jog for 30 seconds and then walk 30 seconds. Repeat this sequence for the next minute or so.

You’ll notice that in this version of the training plan, the ratios between running and walking periods are different. In the first minute you’ll jog for 30 seconds, but you’ll walk for 60 seconds.

At Track

Most beginner runners focus on running at a comfortable speed and long distance without worrying about their breaking point.

Continuous jogging is boring and unproductive for most people. However continuous jogging is essential for people who are just starting to run or for new runners.

This interval running workout for beginners is designed for newbies to get maximum results of getting fit fast.

Absolutely no running experience is required to complete this workout.

This is the perfect nonstop workout for beginners who are getting ready to run a 5k or a 10k.

This workout requires a treadmill or a flat surface. Other than this, all you need is a solid watch that can measure time.

This workout can be done 3 times a week or 5 times a week if you have the stamina.

The run times are written in a format like x:xx/30:00. You will jog at an easy comfortable pace of x:xx/min per mile for 30:00 minutes then do a recovery/cool off session for 30:00 minutes. This is the ideal amount of time for recovery, but of course you can do a little more or a bit less if you wish.

On Road/Sidewalk

Interval running is one of the hottest running workouts for weight loss and training.

{1}. It will build speed and help you stay injury-free.
{2}. It will help you improve your fitness faster.
{3}. It will teach you to run with better form and to prevent injuries that come with poor form.
{4}. It will burn fat at a faster rate than any other training method.

While interval training has had a bad rap in the past few years with no scientific studies showing any fat burning benefits, there is absolutely no doubt that when it comes to fat burning, interval training is king.

On Treadmill

Running: Beginner Interval Training

Are you a beginner runner or thinking about taking up running? Good decision. If you're like me, you are likely to start out by running on the treadmill. Running on the treadmill is a great option for beginners. It's really easy to do, and you don't have to worry about the weather.

I'm pretty far from being a pro, and I still do most of my running on the treadmill in the gym where I belong. So let's talk about treadmill running and how it might affect your speed and endurance.

Here are a few tips for beginner interval training on the treadmill. These are going to be a mixture of treadmill running tips and just general exercise intervals that you can use or modify to fit your needs and capabilities.

Keep It Short

When you are just starting out, the last thing you want to do is run really far or for a really long time. Especially if you are going to be doing this on a treadmill, you want to keep it short because it's a lot easier to stop if you need to than it is to keep going just because you've started.

I keep my runs between 10 and 20 minutes. You should start on this end of that spectrum and work your way up when you feel like you are ready.

Warm Up Long

On Treadmill With Incline

Running an incline is a great way to help kick start your fitness training and improve your endurance for distances longer than a 5k.

Running uphill burns more calories than running on the flat or downhill.

Try running a mile fartlek style 2-5 times a week. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down.

Here is a sample workout. Go slow, stretch, and set your incline to about 6%. Enjoy!

  • Run 10 strides at 5k race pace (or a little faster) with a 1-2 minute recovery between each.
  • Run 20 normal paced training miles divided over 1-2 hours with 1 minute recovery between each mile.
  • Alternate between running 3-4 minutes at 8k race pace with 60 seconds recovery and 3 minutes easy jog.
  • Run 1 minute easy pace, 1½ minutes at 10k race pace, 1 minute easy, 1 minute at mile race pace, then back to easy pace for 2 minutes.
  • Run a mile warm-up then alternate 5 minutes at 5k pace, 1 minute easy, 5 minutes 10k pace, 1 minute easy, 5 minutes at 10k pace, 1 minute easy.

The list is endless. The important thing is to push yourself within your limits.

Hill Intervals

To improve your running stamina, it’s a good idea to incorporate some hill work into your training program. The catch is that this kind of workout is best done outdoors to get the most benefit and the most fun.

This kind of interval training is great assuming you live in a hilly area, but if you’re living in a flat area it’s still a great idea. You want to find a moderately steep hill that is approximately 200 to 400 meters long.

When it comes to uphill running, one thing to keep in mind is that the fastest runners usually are not the ones on a steady uphill grade. As you reach the top of a steep hill, your pace will naturally slow down while your breathing increases.

This is where a lot of runners begin to slow down or stop.

As you go down hill, your natural inclination is to pick up the pace, although your body needs to adjust for this.

To run up and down your hill, you will need to alternate periods of speed with periods where you run at an easy pace.

For starters, you should do 10 minutes of running and then rest for one minute. Over time you can increase the rest and decrease the running time until you are running at a steady up and down pace.