Best running intervals for beginners

Learn how to run intervals in a way that gets you in shape and avoid interval training becoming the form of exercise you prefer to drop.

Most people have probably heard of interval training, and many have felt on their bodies what it is like to perform a hard interval workout. Yes, running intervals can be challenging, but it should not be more strenuous than exercising aerobically, which means that you exercise without your muscles starting to produce lactic acid.

The fact that interval training is and should be demanding is a stubborn myth. In the following, you will learn about how to run intervals in a way that makes interval training more fun and motivating.

Interval training

In this article, you, as a beginner, will get an introduction to what it means to run intervals. You will learn about why it is wise to run intervals and with what intensity you should run. You also want to get tips on what you need to be aware of before starting interval training.

In this article, we distinguish between short and long intervals and give you examples of how to prepare the different types of intervals.

Think injury prevention

Running at a higher intensity can increase the risk of injuries related to running. Then you must train in a way that can prevent injuries. Varying your running training is one crucial factor in avoiding injuries. Make sure you get enough rest after a hard interval workout, and never run two hard training sessions in a row.


You must warm up properly before the interval training. Jog 15-20 minutes or 2-3 kilometers before starting the intervals. Finish the warm-up with 2-3 speed increases to feel a little of the feeling of getting your heart rate up.

What is interval training?

Running intervals means periodizing running with higher intensity for shorter or longer periods, with short breaks between each interval. How long breaks you take can vary according to fitness level, but not so long that the heart rate goes down completely. As a beginner, it will be natural for you to have slightly longer breaks between each interval.

Examples of intervals can be five × 200 meter intervals, with a 100-meter walk between each interval, or a 3 × 1000 meter interval with a 120-second break between each interval.

Why run intervals?

Running intervals correctly can increase your aerobic capacity, and this means that you can run faster without crossing the threshold where your muscles start to produce lactic acid. Running long intervals increases your endurance, while short intervals give you more speed in your legs and increased speed.

Interval training helps you to get in shape faster than just running easy walks. That said, combining interval training with leisurely running and other forms of running activity is the best way to get in shape with running.

What types of intervals should you run?

The types of intervals you should run depending on what your training goals are. If you do not prepare for a certain distance, we recommend that you vary between short and long intervals in your running training. If you train for shorter distances, you should have a predominance of short intervals since you often maintain a high pace on this type of distance. If you prepare for races for 10 km or longer, the overweight should be at long intervals to make you more enduring and build up the ability to keep up the speed.

The fact that there should be a predominance of either short or long intervals, depending on the distance you train to, does not mean that you should either run short or long intervals.

For example, if you will run a marathon, it is wise to periodize the interval training. One way to do this is to start with periods where interval training predominates at short intervals. A more marathon-specific way to train later in the training program can then be to periodize with long intervals.

To periodizes, an intelligent way to train, to build up both speed and endurance, simultaneously as the varied training practice has an injury-preventing effect.

It is vital that you vary between the type of interval you run and that you also vary the intensity. If you run 800-meter intervals, you can enter a speed increase in the last 400 meters.

How often should you run intervals?

It is very individual how many intervals you should train a week, but it has a connection with how often and how much you train and what fitness level you are. Remember that you usually need more time for recovery after an interval session. One session can be interval training if you exercise 2-3 times a week, and two varied interval sessions if you exercise 4-5 times a week. You must recover adequately after each interval session.

Determine your level of fitness

Before you start training, you must find out what level of fitness you are. This is important considering the intensity at which you should run the intervals. It is not uncommon for many to go out too hard without first determining their level of form. Finding your fitness level can easily be done by starting the intervals easy instead of increasing the intensity in the long run until you know your limits go. We recommend that you do this regardless of whether you know your anaerobic threshold or not. Going too hard can break your motivation for running and lead to overload and injury in the worst case.

With what intensity you should run intervals

Doing interval training can be perceived as brutal but should not be more challenging than you manage to complete all intervals at roughly the same speed. It would be best to be slightly below the anaerobic threshold and at least not higher than this threshold. To find your anaerobic threshold, you can take a test at a gym or other places that perform this type of test. Then you will find your maximum heart rate, and based on this, you can define your training zones. An easy but inaccurate way to find your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220.

The heart rate should slightly exceed the anaerobic threshold. If you run too much in this zone, you will accumulate slag substances in the muscles, and the recovery time after the training session will increase.

It would be best if you run with an intensity that is comfortably hard. As mentioned, this means that you should not run harder than you could run another interval after you have finished the interval session.

Practice short intervals

An example of a short interval could be a 6 × 200-meter interval with a 20-second break if you spent 40 seconds on the interval. As a beginner, you can have slightly longer breaks if it gets too hard. Remember that you should be able to complete all the intervals with roughly the same intensity and pace.

Another example of a short-range is 15 × 15. Run at a high pace for 15 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds. This is a great way to build up speed in your legs.

A third example is running 5 × 400 intervals, having a one-minute break, or walking 200 meters between each interval.

If you want a more challenging way to run intervals, you can gradually increase the pace for each interval in the examples shown above, but do not forget that you should have enough strength to complete all the intervals.

Do long intervals

An example of an extended interval can be a 4 × 800-meter interval, with a 1-minute break between each interval. As a beginner, you can walk 400 meters between each drag.

Another example is to run 3 × 1000 meter intervals with a 2-minute break between each interval.

A third example is to run 2 × 1500 meter intervals with a 3-minute break between each interval.

Progressive running is a form of the long interval where you open calmly and finish at a faster pace in the end. You can carry out such a training session by running easily in zone 1-2 in 15 and then finishing with 15 minutes at a faster pace. The pace in the more immediate part of the session should be somewhat lower than in a shorter interval.

If you train in this way, you mustn’t take in more than that. You manage to complete all the intervals at a steady pace.

Pyramid intervals are a great way to vary interval training, where you gradually increase the length of the intervals and then go down again with the same length of intervals. An example of a pyramid interval could be running 1-2-3-4-3-2-1 (minutes). Enter breaks equal to half the length of the interval. Increase the pace and intensity of the interval the shorter it is.

Pyramid intervals are a great way to combine shorter intervals with longer intervals.

Sometimes it may be appropriate to train at intervals on the treadmill.

Interval training on a treadmill

Exercising on a treadmill is an excellent alternative to running intervals outside, especially in the winter when it is often slippery and difficult to run.

Other advantages of training intervals on the treadmill are that you can run intervals at a constant speed, which makes it easy to maintain a steady pace through all the intervals.

Disadvantages may be that this form of exercise can be monotonous and unmotivating. You also lose a lot of the kick you would otherwise have had when you train outside. Set up the treadmill a few degrees to even out the air resistance you have when you exercise outdoors, and combine running on a treadmill with exercise outside to maintain the kick.

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Best intervals for half marathon training

Best intervals for HIIT

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