One of the common questions I often get from my peers is: “What’s the most effective way to prepare for my 2.4km run?” Well, given that it’s an annual test that all active NSmen in Singapore have to go through, some may struggle to find the time or stay disciplined to maintain our fitness throughout the year.
Based on my experiences, if you are training for short distance races like 2.4km, I highly recommend trying an interval regime that combines repeated sets of short and high-intensity bursts with low-intensity recovery periods to build speed, strength and endurance.
How Does It Work?
Engaging in high-intensity workouts taps on your anaerobic system to produce more energy, which results in lactic acid building up in the working muscles. This causes you to feel a burning sensation that leads to discomfort. During the recovery phase of the interval training, the aerobic system helps to break down the lactic acid using oxygen, relieving the “pain”. Repeating this process causes your body to adapt and burn lactic acid more efficiently as you progress in your training.
The Outcome: You can then run faster for a longer period of time before fatigue sets in.
Firstly, it is important for you to set a target (or goal) before you start planning your training. With your target in mind, you can work towards running at the respective pace during the high-intensity component of your workout that allows you to achieve your target. You can do this at a nearby stadium or school track, and each session can be as short as 20 minutes. Let’s take the following example as a guideline for illustration purposes:
Target: 10 mins
Goal Pace: 1:40 min per round
Frequency: 2-3 times a week (have at least a rest day in between your training)
Time Taken: 20 minutes or less (excluding warm-up of 2 rounds – 800m)
Based on the guide in the table below, you can see that the distance for each set gradually increases each week. This helps your body to progressively adapt to a longer period of high-intensity exercise and improve your endurance. Nevertheless, there are many ways to vary your interval training:
1) Change the number of sets (e.g. increase from 6 x 400m to 8 x 400m)
2) Have a combination of different distances in each training (e.g. 2 x 800m and 2 x 400m)
If you find that your pace is too comfortable, you can always adjust your target and increase your speed accordingly.
During the recovery jog, I would usually use the 1 minute to jog from the start line to the other diagonal end (200m start-point) and run the 400m from there. Then, I will jog back the diagonal to the original start point in the next recovery period, then repeat this process (refer to picture below). Doing a recovery jog helps to increase blood circulation and oxygen flow to your working muscles, which aids in the removal of lactic acid faster as compared to a stationary recovery.
Most importantly, make sure that you are feeling physically well and healthy before you embark on an interval training regime as it can be extremely demanding on your body (i.e. heart, lungs and muscles). For beginners, you can always start at a slower pace for a shorter duration just to gauge your physical ability before you pick up the intensity.
Doing interval training can be useful, even for distances such as 10km, where you can consider doing 12 x 800m sets or 10 x 1km sets. High-intensity interval training has also been proven to be useful in preparation for running distances beyond 10km, even if you are preparing for a 42km marathon. Although endurance plays a bigger role in longer distances, adding intervals to your training can produce significant benefits – such as increased VO2 max and speed.
Key takeaway: Interval training allows your body to get used to the intensity of the race pace, which prepares you well for the actual race!
Good luck with your fitness goals, and feel free to share your experiences with us. Tune in for our next article on the “8 Principles of Training”! 😊
💡 Tip for intervals: Always keep a steady and challenging pace throughout the interval! Adjust your pace accordingly to push yourself for better performance.