Run Smarter Not Harder

Interval training for runners can increase speed and improve overall body health

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Interval training is not new to the sports scene. But, the new 10-20-30-seconds method might be the new magic bullet for runners.

New research suggests that people can train less to run faster.

Runners should break up their work outs into moderate, fast and all out timed intervals. This training method offers many added benefits, such as lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

Those in the interval-training group showed a 4 percent improvement for their maximum oxygen uptake, 10 percent improvement for their cholesterol levels, 4 percent better blood pressure.

"Try interval training methods to feel better about yourself."

Professor Jens Bangsbo, deputy head of research in the department of exercise and sport sciences at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, has found more evidence to support interval training for runners.

Researchers asked 18 men and women, who were already physically active and enjoyed running, to participate in this seven week interval training program. 10 people were in the test group and eight in the control group. While this is a small group, the results were conclusive.

The 10-20-30 interval training method consists of: running at less than 30 percent capacity (low effort) for 30 seconds, like a basic jog, then running at between 30-60 percent capacity (moderate) for 20 seconds, then running full speed at greater than 90 percent capacity (max out) for 10 seconds.

The cycle takes one minute and should be repeated five times in a row, and followed by a two-minute rest. This takes a total of seven minutes and should be repeated three to four times.

It would go like this: first jog to warm up for 1 km, then begin the interval training by jogging for 30 seconds, then run for 20 seconds, then sprint for 10 seconds and repeat this cycle five times in a row with no rest until all five are completed. Then take a two-minute rest, and start over from the beginning. Repeat this formula three times, which would last a total of 21 minutes, or four times, which would last a total of 28 minutes.

After seven weeks, the test group improved their 5K race times by an average of 48 seconds, a 4 percent improvement of their overall race times. Forty-eight seconds may not seem like a lot, but consider that each runner cut their training time in half to prepare for the race in comparison to previous 5K training programs they did.

Researchers weren’t just looking at running times, they also measured the participant’s maximum oxygen uptake, blood pressure and cholesterol. 

According to Professor Bangsbo, “We were very surprised to see such an improvement in the health profile considering that the participants have been running for several years. The results show that the very intense training has a great potential for improving health status of already trained individuals.”

One of the PhD students that worked on the project, Thomas Gunnarsson, noted: “We found a reduction in emotional stress when compared to control subjects continuing their normal training based on a recovery-stress questionnaire administered before and after the seven-week training period.”

This fitness regimen is a perfect solution for people with busy schedules and can be easily adapted to different fitness levels.

Fitness trainer Jim Crowell adds: “I am a big believer that interval training is extremely beneficial to people of all athletic backgrounds. I have found that my athletes progress much faster with fewer impact-related injuries when they train with more intense interval work vs. longer, slower runs. When coupled with proper biomechanics I believe that all athletes would benefit greatly by incorporating interval training into their training program.”

This study was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, May 2012.

Funding for the research was provided by the Nordea-fonden, Copenhagen, Denmark; no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 6, 2012
Last Updated:
October 24, 2012