Why Distance Runners Need Interval Training

Famed running coach Arthur Lydiard once said, "If you want to be a successful runner, you have to consider everything. It's no good just thinking about endurance and not to develop fine speed." Even still, many runners view interval training as painful, boring or just too complicated. While it's easy to become intimidated by the amount of information on the subject in circulation, a simple understanding of the benefits and guidelines can simplify things and make implementing interval training a snap.

In the 1960s, the problem wasn't that runners weren't doing enough interval training, but rather that they were doing too much. When Lydiard came on the running scene in the 1960s, he noticed that many distance runners were stale from running a majority of their training at higher intensities, leaving out the important long, slow distance (LSD). A leader in the sport, he advocated for a more balanced approach that included more LSD, but still a small amount of high-intensity training. Over the years, however, the pendulum has swung in the other direction, leading many runners to shelve interval training altogether and rely entirely on LSD.

More: 8 Ways to Improve Distance-Running Performance

The Benefits of Interval Training

Fortunately, modern science has brought training back into focus, emphasizing the importance of utilizing a wide variety of workouts, including the fast stuff. For instance, a study conducted at The University of Western Ontario, showed that just six weeks of sprint interval training elicited similar jumps in VO2 max and running performance compared to regular endurance training. Most importantly, the interval training took a fraction of the time than the more traditional training program, offering comparable results. When you get more bang for your buck, why wouldn't you ramp up the intensity occasionally?

More: How to Complete High-Intensity Interval Hill Workouts

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