Friday, July 1, 2016

High Intensity Intervals

I recently spent some time looking at my 10K training, to see if maybe there was something I was doing then that helped the weight drop off so easily (like I said, I wasn't trying to get below my goal weight; but shortly after I started the 80/20 training, my weight started dropping again pretty easily for some reason). I had tried a new training plan that involved a lot of short intervals--something I wasn't used to. I had never done 45-second or 60-second intervals before.

It made me wonder if maybe the high-intensity intervals, coupled with the very slow, easy runs, helped me drop the weight. I have no idea, but I training that way made me realize that I really enjoy doing short intervals like that. It's a very tough workout overall, but you only have to focus on short little bursts of effort at a time, before you get a break.

I recently wrote an entire training plan made up of high-intensity short intervals and very slow, easy runs--the same thing I was doing before--and I thought I'd give it a try for a while. Since I'm not really training for anything, I can basically just experiment however I want to. (If I find the plan worthwhile, I'll post it on my Training Plans page). For the plan, I have intervals ranging from just 10 seconds to 60 seconds--but nothing more than 60 seconds of hard effort at a time.

Yesterday, I did the most extreme of the short interval workouts--60 x 10 seconds with 20-second recovery walks. SIXTY intervals. It sounded crazy, but the total time would only be 30 minutes (not including a warm-up). I figured it couldn't hurt to give it a try, so I set up my Garmin for the intervals (I had to use a work-around to get the workout to show up--adding the workout to my calendar and then syncing the calendar. No idea why I can't get the workouts to sync by themselves!)

I did a five-minute jog to warm-up, and then heard the beep to start my first interval. I couldn't believe how quickly it went by! Ten seconds is NOTHING.

But before I write about that, let me explain how the intervals work on the Garmin. When you are five seconds from starting an interval, the Garmin does one beep per second (as a countdown, so you know it's coming up). Then, during the interval, when you're five seconds from the end, it will beep each second for the last five seconds.

So, for 30 minutes, it sounded like this:
Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. 5 seconds of quiet. Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. 15 seconds of quiet. Repeat--SIXTY times. Hahaha! So much beeping.

The constant beeping actually wasn't so bad, though, because when I started each interval, I only had to run for five seconds before it started counting down to walk. So, I would start running hard, count up to five in my head, and then count down from five to the tune of the beeps and start my 20-second walk.

Now, how effective was this workout? In theory, it sounds like nothing: sprint for 10 seconds, and then literally walk slowly for 20 seconds.

Oh, Friends. It was HARD.

In fact, after about 35 of these intervals, I was ready to quit. I just wanted one goddamn break that lasted longer than 20 seconds! I stopped my Garmin, and started walking, thinking I'd quit at that point, and then next time, try to get in 10 more or something. Sixty was just too much. But, then I thought about my previous blog post, and how I've been struggling lately. I knew I had the rest of the workout in me, I just didn't want to put in the effort.

So, I gave myself a kick in the ass, took a deep breath, and then started the Garmin again to complete all 60 of the intervals. And I did it!
So sweaty. So exhausted.

It was really interesting to look at the data, afterward, too. (For comparison's sake, I'm going to ignore the 5-minute warm-up jog at the beginning of the interval session, and just focus on the 30 minutes of run/walk intervals.) Even though I only ran hard for 10 minutes of the 30-minutes of intervals, my heart rate stayed almost constant the entire time--and it was high! In fact, my average heart rate during the 30-minutes of intervals was 167 bpm--which is 90% of my maximum heart rate.

The reason for that dip in heart rate at around the 23:00 mark is from when I stopped my Garmin and took a walk break for about 60 seconds.

When I did my "RUNch" a few days ago, I ran an 8:40 pace for 3 miles (26 minutes), and that felt really hard. My heart rate averaged 164 bpm. Yesterday, I did an easy warm-up for 5 minutes, ran hard for a total of 10 minutes, and walked for a total of 20 minutes. My average heart rate was actually three beats per minute HIGHER than the 3-mile RUNch!

During the RUNch, I burned 256 calories; and during the high-intensity intervals, I burned 240 (that does not include the warm-up). In terms of calories burned per minute, the interval workout burned 8/min, and the RUNch burned 10/min. The difference is, I was putting in hard effort for 26 minutes during the RUNch; and only 10 minutes during the intervals.

It was a very different workout from what I'm used to, and I look forward to trying more like it (30 x 20 seconds, for example, or 12 x 30 seconds, etc.). From the research I've done on high-intensity intervals, there are a few key notes: 1) Put in 100% effort on the intervals; 2) Keep the duration of the recoveries to no more than two times the hard interval, and make the recoveries VERY easy; 3) Keep the entire interval session between 10 and 40 minutes long; 4) To make it harder as you get fitter, decrease the duration of the recoveries and/or increase the duration of the intervals.

I have to say, I was surprised at how tough of a workout this ended up being! The time flew by, both during each interval and during the workout as a whole. The beeping was a little annoying, and this was definitely not a "zone out and daydream" sort of run--but it was very effective in terms of heart rate and calories burned. I liked trying something new!



  1. I like doing some sort of interval, even if it's not high intensity, because it helps pass the time. Just focusing on small time goals makes the overall larger time goal seem to pass much more quickly.

  2. Great Post today!! I'm back at training after being down with an injury. Anxious to try this out!!

  3. Wow, that is insane!! I cannot imagine doing that over and over SIXTY times. You're hard core!! LOL!


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