If fat loss and better overall health are two of the reasons you run, you might be sabotaging your efforts by the way you are currently running.

Study after study points to interval-type training (defined by a series of short to medium bursts of energy expenditure followed by short recovery periods) as the best way to burn fat, improve cardiovascular health, and minimize the chance of overuse injuries.

But that doesn’t mean you have to have a track at your disposal to utilize this technique. Here are some ways to incorporate intervals into your normal runs:

  1.  Walk/Run: This is the easiest, and some of you may already be doing this type of training. It is very popular, and some of the best running coaches (Jeff Galloway, Hal Higdon) incorporate them into their marathon training programs. I used Hal Higdon’s Novice Marathon Training Program back in 2004 when I ran the Kiawah Island Marathon. This is merely taking the occasional walk break during a run, without any defined parameters–usually when the runner begins to fatigue.
  2. Timed Intervals: This is a walk/run with defined periods of walking (recovery) and running (work). It can be whatever you like as long as your recovery is not too short or too long. Use your breathing as a way to determine your recovery. When you can breathe through your nose again, it’s probably time to start running again. Some examples are walk 1 minute/run or jog 1 minute. This morning I did a 2 x 2: walk 2 minutes/run 2 minutes for 3.2 miles.
  3. Hill Intervals: This is a little more advanced. Pick out the hilliest course you can. Run as hard as you can up the hill, walk down the hill to recover, and on the flat sections, jog at a comfortable pace.
  4. Sprints: My favorite place to do these is the track, but that’s not always possible or practical. The easiest way to do these is to pick a marker down the road or trail (stop sign, mailbox, tree, etc.) a short distance (maybe 50-100 yards), and sprint (run like a bear is chasing you) to that marker. You can either walk to recover or jog. It’s up to you. I prefer to walk :-).
  5. GPS Intervals: For those of you with a runner’s GPS (like a Garmin Forerunner), most of them have interval programs you can set up for both time and distance intervals. Check it out.
  6. Heart Rate Intervals: And for those super techies, you can always go out and buy a heart rate monitor (some devices have both GPS AND HR together! How cool is that!). Do the research and determine what the max heart rate is for your age (Thumb Rule: Max HR = 220 – your age). Once that’s determined, select the desired range you want to stay and how long. Warning: If you’ve had heart surgery, consult with your doctor on the best way to utilize this method.

heart_rate training

These are just a few ways to incorporate intervals into your runs. I’m sure there are plenty more out there, as well as the ones you can create.

For me, this makes running much more fun, as well as more effective at doing the things for my body that running is supposed to do.

Have you ever used any of these in your runs? Which ones?  

Do you feel like as much as you run, you should have a lot less fat? If so, maybe it’s time to try some of these. Let me know how it works for you.