Norwegian trail and mountain runner Stian Angermund needs no introduction in trail running circles. He’s a two-time winner of the Salomon Golden Trail World Series (2018 and 2021) , holds the record of the Zegama-Aizkorri trail race and has won a number of iconic vertical k races.
Stian, 36, began competitive endurance sports in his teens and started taking on mountain races in his 20s. Now he also enjoys coaching fellow athletes to help them achieve their goals. Interval training, he says, can get fantastic results when done properly and consistently. Read on for his advice and check out his second post with three specific interval sessions.
Learn how to build your interval workouts using the Workout planner in Suunto app and follow the session in real time on your Suunto watch.
Stian lives in Bergen, Norway.
Master interval training
By Stian Angermund
What is interval training?
Interval training is when you break a training session into hard and easy intervals. For example, you run hard for four minutes, then walk for two minutes, before you run hard for another four minutes. You repeat this cycle several times. Intervals can be short, from just a few seconds or up to many minutes. The recovery time is often shorter than the hard interval time.
Intervals can be measured in time (duration: one, two or four minutes) and in length (distance: 200m, 400m or 1000m etc).
Why should you do interval training?
Interval training is a good way to improve your aerobic and anaerobic endurance. When having the short rest in between the intervals, your body is recovering, and you can do a bigger volume/greater amount of time at a hard intensity than by constant training at the same intensity.
How often should you do intervals?
There are many ways to get in good shape - we are all different. Some athletes do two intervals a day, several times a week, and some do only one interval session a week. If you haven’t run intervals before, I recommend starting with one interval session a week and then increasing to two sessions. It’s very individual when the body is ready and can handle two or more interval sessions a week.
To ensure you do a quality interval training session it’s essential you have fully recovered from any earlier training sessions. If you have sore muscles or feel tired when you are about to start your interval training, then it’s not the right time. You should skip or postpone the planned interval session.
How long should the intervals be?
The duration of the intervals will vary according to the goal of the session and the level of the athlete. The total volume of the interval session is the time of all the intervals.
● For example, 4x4 minutes with two minutes recovery in between. The total interval time here is 16 minutes. We do not include the recovery time.
The total volume must not be longer than what you can manage. If you run 6x3 minutes and you see that you run slower and slower for each interval, then it might be that the total volume is too much or you have started too fast.
The different types of intervals
To improve the Vo2max (the maximum amount of oxygen the athlete can utilise), the intervals are often from 2 to 6 minutes long. This type of interval is completed in the high-intensity zone. An intensity where you can feel lactate in your muscles. The number of intervals can be from four to 12. The total volume is often between 20 and 35 minutes. The recovery between the intervals is often one-third of the time of the interval.
Intervals to improve the anaerobic threshold
This interval session will be of a lower intensity than the Vo2max session. It can be difficult. to find the right intensity for this session. When you are at a level for improving your anaerobic threshold, you don’t feel any lactate in your muscles. You only know this limit when you go above and your muscles start to increase lactate.
Because threshold intervals are of a lower intensity than for improving your Vo2max, you can do a bigger volume. The intervals can be from five minutes to more than half an hour. The total volume can be from 30 minutes tol more than one hour. The recovery can be one minute to a few minutes. For this type of interval training, it is also important to have quality and to not do more than you can manage and recover from. If you run slower and slower during each interval or need to push to a higher intensity to keep up, then it's better to stop the session.
You can do a test to find your threshold level. Here’s how: after a solid warm up, run as fast as you can for 40 to 60 minutes. The average pulse for the test will be around your anaerobic threshold. This threshold will be different from one activity type to another. That means the anaerobic threshold is not the same when you run and when you cycle or ski. Therefore, you should do your threshold test in the same activity as you want to improve.
Why is even pacing important when running intervals?
In order to get as many benefits as possible from the interval session, it is important to pace the interval right. You can use a pulse belt to help you pace the interval correctly. If you run on a treadmill or do the intervals on the same course, then ideally all the intervals should go around the same pace. That means the pulse will be lower in the beginning and increase during the session. If you start too hard, then you will not benefit as much for the session, and the recovery might take longer.
What kind of intervals are good to start with?
If you can run without stopping for 20 minutes, then you can start running intervals with a volume from 10 to 16 minutes. It can be 5x2min or 4x4min. If you can’t run this long, you can start with a run and walk session - one minute on/off until you can do this for 30 min. Then you can run two minutes and walk a minute. Then, three minutes running and one walking. Continue like this until you can run 20 minutes. After this you can start with the intervals described above.
What kind of intervals will help trail runners?
All the intervals mentioned earlier can be good for trail runners. If you run trail races with some elevation gain, It is a good idea to run the intervals up, or up and downhill. It is often hard to start on a new uphill after running a downhill, which is the case in trail races.
A way to train trail intervals is to run intervals uphill then jog easy down to where you started the interval as recovery before running another uphill interval. This can be hard for the legs, but it will prepare you for a trail race. The recovery period will be longer for uphill/downhill sessions than for flat or road intervals.
How to build an interval session?
Intervals can be done in many ways.
● Equal: 5 x 5 minutes, 4x4 minutes, 2x2 minutes
● Pyramid: 3-5-7-7-5-3 minutes.
● Countdown: 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 minutes
There are many ways to run intervals. Let your imagination help you. Mentally it can be good to do some variation of your intervals, rather than run them the same way every time. You can change their duration, pace and terrain.
To get coaching from Stian visit: https://stianangermund.com