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What is Interval training & which level is right for me??

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

What is interval Training??

In very simple terms interval training combines repeated short duration exercises at your maximum perceived effort with equal or longer rest periods between each set, to allow sufficient recovery time to maintain a high level of intensity.

Why Do We Do Interval Training ?

  • Physiological benefits (eg. increased endurance)

  • Psychological benefits (eg. increased confidence)

  • Improved biomechanics (eg. enhanced running technique)

  • Reduced risk of muscular/skeletal injuries (eg. stronger muscles, tendons and bones)

  • Reduced risk of chronic diseases (eg. hypertension, arthritis, diabetes etc)

There’s no shortage of science behind the physiological benefits of interval training however, as a coach, I find it fascinating to also observe the psychological benefits. Nothing is more satisfying and effective for motivating a person than the sense of achievement you get when you smash yourself through the wall that previously felt like your 100% maximum effort (HIIT at its best !).

Every runner has different strengths and speeds. Some of us can power our way through a 1,500m track session while others can move like a metronome all day. In an interval based group running environment (if programmed accordingly) the benefit is that everyone starts and finishes at the same time and in the same place, regardless of ability. The results come from the level of intensity that is applied over the same time and/or distance.

An example of a run interval session for a group is the following (my personal favourite !):

3 rounds/10 sets of sprints every 45 seconds (the “AFL abbreviated 100 x 100m sprints”):

  • Start with a maximum effort run for 20 seconds

  • Mark the distance covered in that time for each person

  • Perform 10 x sprints over the above distance every 45 seconds

  • Rest for 4 to 5 minutes and repeat for 3 rounds

The other less recognised but huge benefit of interval training (and a crucial part of working with a coach) is to increase performance through improved technique. Given that HIIT training is made up of a series of short duration efforts with recovery time in between, this allows time to do the following (ie. time to chat to your coach!):

  • Focus

  • Observation

  • Review

  • Adjust

  • Repeat

For example, over the course of an interval session, the athlete and coach can do the following.

  • The athlete focuses on making sure they are pumping their arms “hips to lips”

  • The coach observes the arm action and records slow motion video

  • Between sets the athlete and coach review the video and identify areas of improvement

  • On the following sets the athlete adjusts their action accordingly

  • Over the course of the session the athlete and coach repeat the above process

In contrast to this, over the course of a continuous moderate effort long run, the athlete may fall into old habits as they “fatigue and forget”. The coach may also not be within range of the athlete and have insufficient “down time” to review, adjust and repeat over the course of the session.

And finally, there is always the obvious benefit of social interaction and peer support from your fellow athletes each time you complete a set (and you have recovered enough to start talking again !)



American journal of cardiovascular disease

Journal of Sports Science & Medicine


Which Level is right for me??

At North Shore Running and Outdoor Fitness, we provide 4 levels of interval sessions to accomodate the newest to the elite!

Level 1

This is where the running journey begins !

  • Who: For those of you who are new to the running experience or feel like you need to start over again (eg. after a prolonged sedentary lifestyle, returning from illness or injury etc).

  • What: This is a fixed 8 week program in a non-intimidating environment where you can be inspired by like-minded running buddies. No prior running experience or fitness level is necessary, that’s what we are here to give you!

  • When: Programs run quarterly with sessions in the morning and evening on weekdays, and Saturday mornings (keep an eye on our website for commencement dates).

  • Goals: By the end of the program our aim is to have you running continuously for at least 30 minutes so you can work towards your first 5km (or further!) fun run event. You will now also be ready to graduate to our Level 2 program.

Level 2

You now have the bug and want to increase the challenge and rewards !

  • Who: For those who have had some previous running experience, but feel like you need some help to get you moving again. Also perfect for those who have recently completed the Level 1 beginners program.

  • What: Our job is to take the skills and strengths you have developed in the past and build on this. Your coach will guide you through the journey and advise you on the right time to graduate to Level 3 !

  • When: This is held every Wednesday 6:30pm at North Sydney.

  • Goals: By now you’ll be flipping through the pages of the latest running magazines and being seduced by ads for various running races or hearing your buddy talking about the amazing experience they had running their first “big city” running festival. Your first 10km race or City2Surf beckons !

Level 3

I can’t stop running so what can I do to feed the addiction ?

  • Who: This is our most popular level and caters for those of you who have established a regular running routine and want to find out how far (and fast) you can go.

  • What: The regular weekly run coaching sessions will test your strength, skills and fine tune your running technique to achieve the gains you require to tick that next big race off your bucket list. Your running abilities should be pretty well established and you should know how to get up a sweat! Most importantly, these sessions should be for you to focus on your own personal goals even though you will be running in a group environment. It’s you against the stopwatch rather than you against the person running beside you (that’s reserved for Level 4 !).

  • When: This session is held Monday - Thursday evenings across our network.

  • Goals: By now ”distance” is a relative concept only limited by the km’s you can knock over before stopping to go to work, playing with the kids or taking your partner out on a date. Those events with the word “marathon” in them are your nirvana or you desire more outright speed for those shorter distance events.

Level 4

Why have people given me the nickname “Forrest Gump” or “Mo Farah” ?

  • Who: You’re ready to test the limits of your ability in speed, distance and pain tolerance. You are committed to running and have a well structured and regular training routine but need help to find those extra few minutes and seconds.

  • What: These will be ad hoc special run coaching sessions to give those runners accustomed to the Level 3 group sessions a chance to push through that brick wall and discover the running “mongrel” deep inside you! Your running abilities should be very well established and the expressions on your face should tell the story of how hard you are pushing! Unlike the Level 3 sessions, you will be encouraged to “race your mate” for bragging honours (and plenty of stories to exchange afterwards) . It’s you against gravity and your competition….last athlete standing!

  • When: To be confirmed (watch our website and social media communications for more news)

  • Goals: Your goals are very specific, driven and attainable, with the right guidance and motivation. Sub 4 min km’s are where you feel happiest and challenging terrain does not scare you at all.

Keen to give interval training a go?? Check out our training schedule below and book into a week free trial today:

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