Interval training: Essential Kit

Mon, Jul 2, 2012, 01:00

Interval training: running to stand still: IT CAN BE hard to get your head around the usefulness of interval training. When you want to extend your miles and get some running in your legs, it seems counterintuitive to start and stop.

“I always explain to people why they’re doing it because they do wonder,” explains runner and coach Vinny Mulvey.

“If they know why, they’ll be more successful, put more effort in.”

So why do intervals? Because it’s a great way of building speed and endurance, and also it helps simulate racing conditions. “It gets your body used to a high work rate,” says Mulvey.

“It simulates how you’ll feel in a race, mentally and physically. You’re not going to feel good. On the physical side it taps into the lactate threshold and gets you more used to running at a level just off it.”

That threshold is vital in running, and something you’ll often hear spoken about – but which many runners only become aware of when they feel it.

The greater the intensity of a run, the more lactic acid builds up in the muscles, until the body can’t clear it as quickly as it’s being produced, leading to reduced performance. Pushing back that lactate threshold improves performance.

Interval training also alters the heart rate so it’s not just working at the same pace all the time. It is similar for the legs, which are too often used to moving along at one speed.

However, Mulvey recommends tailoring intervals to specific needs. If a longer race is the focus, the aim becomes greater endurance; speed sessions require a different approach.

He suggests this simple interval session below, based not on building mileage but on reducing the rest period in between.

Basic interval programme:

5 x 1km. Rest 2.5 minutes between each. Reduce the rest period gardually with each session, down to 5 x 1km with a one minute recovery. SHANE HEGARTY


Your say Essential kit Tested: Bags

We’re enjoying the Silveredge bag which arrived recently. With a silver-coated lining, it soaks up odours pretty effectively and is a very useful gym bag for within your work or travel bag. Waterproof, it’s a handy alternative to the usual plastic bag. American made, it’s $39.99 plus postage from

For triathletes, the Amphibia X-Bag has proven popular. You might remember the large bag – with fold-out changing mat, velcro loops and waterproof compartments – from Dragon’s Den. At €68 from amphibia-sport.comit’s certainly handier than the oft-sighted boxes at triathlons.

What’s your most essential piece of kit? We asked you on Twitter and Facebook.

Front-door key. Getting locked out in shorts and T-shirt in the middle of winter is no fun. I’ve learnt that the hard way. – Anne Hayden

Tissues. Come rain or shine, I run: my nose runs. – Helen Morrogh

I generally find shorts are pretty essential. – Aidan O’Callaghan

A hairband; otherwise I have a tendency to a) get really annoyed as my hair goes into my eyes and b) run into things. – Steph Cremen

I use Nike+ on my iPhone, listen to music and it’s the security of having the phone with me. The Garmin is for accuracy . – Kate Meenan

My racing flats. What else!? I normally do run with my GPS watch, iPhone etc, but it’s incredibly relieving and – at the risk of sounding new-age hippy – makes me feel more in touch with the run when I leave all that stuff at home. – Karl Smyth

Race of the Week


You could do the Energia 24-Hour race in Bangor on Friday. What scenic route does this ultra-marathon take? The eight-lane Sportsplex track. Many, many laps of it. Last year’s winner did 132 miles. However, for something more immediately achievable, and with nicer views, the Achill Half Marathon takes place on Saturday and takes in a scenic route through the centre of the island while also taking in the coast. It’s €60 to enter, though.

Medals of honour: Blisters

What:Those liquidy, bursty and sometimes very painful things that appear on the feet.

How:Friction is the main cause – socks rubbing against skin. The sweatier your feet, or the more seams in your socks, the more of a problem it can become. Ill-fitting shoes are also a cause, or ones that are tightened wrongly.

Fix it:There are good anti-blister socks, such as the double layered type available in good sports shops. But pick good running socks that are smooth, have few seams and fit properly. Also, have a look at your shoes. Your feet swell when running, so add half a size compared to how they fit in the shop.

If you get a blister, either let it disappear by itself or wear a specific blister bandage.

* For updates, tips, links and chat see blogs/bodyandsole

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