As you all know, I am a pretty dedicated interval runner, ascribing to the Jeff Galloway Method of Run Walk Run.
The basic premise is that runners go through their miles in set intervals, running for a select time and then walking for a select time. To choose those intervals, runners are encouraged to calculate their Magic Mile, via running several straight miles and comparing the pace of the “hard run” mile to a handy dandy interval chart.
I adopted the Galloway Method after I returned to running from my tonsillectomy. Due to the surgery, the shape of my throat and the way I both breathed and swallowed had changed, and made things much more difficult for me when running. I was very discouraged and disheartened, but a few friends had been mentioning interval running to me and I figured it was worth a shot.
In the interest of full disclosure, I never did officially calculate my Magic Mile. At that point, there was no way I could run a straight mile, hard or otherwise, so I kind of decided on what I (reasonably) thought my pace should be based on how I was running pre-surgery (11ish minute miles) and opted to run for two minutes and walk for one.
This served me pretty well for a while. I wasn’t blowing up the timing clocks at any races, but I was holding my own and completed my first half marathon in November of 2013 (Space Coast), feeling pretty good about life.
Of course, with running, goals change and targets move around, and I was getting restless. I wasn’t seeing any dramatic increases in my speed, and after recovering from a nasty bout of plantar fasciitis, it was time to get to work again.
I adjusted my intervals to two minutes and thirty seconds of running and one minute of walking, with the thought that more running would lead to an improvement in my pace. It was a comfortable interval for me, and I was able to maintain it through the very hot summer, my third and fourth half marathons (the former being a Personal Worst and the latter a PR), and marathon training.
I also scored a 5K PR of 33:10 at the Divas Half Marathon & 5K St. Augustine.
After I ran my marathon in January and could stand the sight of running shoes again, it was time for me to find a new focus. I had been talking about improving my 5K time (I wanted to see a sub30 5K) and I decided that I needed to start taking steps to making that happen.
In February, I reflected a bit on where I was going “wrong” and what I could do to meet the challenges I had set for myself. Obviously, I had stalled out with the 2:30/1 method, and it was time to see what I could do when tested. I increased my runs to three minutes and left the recovery walk at one minute, and I was seeing a bit of improvement. However, with summer coming, I wasn’t confident that any gains I had made would continue.
I kept pushing and was very excited by the results I was seeing.
But the problem was I just couldn’t go any faster.
At the March to Get Screened Walk/Run 5K a few weeks ago, my running buddies Kristin and Sharon dropped a bit of information on me: I was going out hard and fast. Neither of those are terms that I would normally think applied to me, and I kind of blew them off, but it also got me thinking.
Maybe. Just maybe.
Maybe I was going too fast for too long. Maybe I was pushing too hard and wasn’t able to sustain my speed. And maybe, the sixty seconds of walking in each interval was too long, giving me time to slow down, consequently dragging my entire pace down with it.
I did some reading. I calculated some things in my head. I wondered if a shorter walk break would bring me some kind of success in reducing my overall pace. According to what I saw on Galloway’s website, in conjunction with information I was reading in some Facebook running groups, it seemed like this might be the case.
On the morning after Easter, I decided it was time to try changing things up. I didn’t want to “waste” a run, but I wasn’t going to find out by not trying.
I kept a similar ratio: instead of setting my Forerunner 220 for three minutes of running and one minute of walking, I settled on one minute of running and fifteen seconds of walking. Ideally, I would have kept the same ratio as I had been doing previously (one minute running, twenty seconds walking), but the 220 only allows for fifteen-second increments, so I went for it.
For some reason, I was under the impression that shorter intervals were going to be easier in terms of running and harder in terms of stops and starts. I was wrong. I pushed super hard during my running intervals, and the fifteen seconds of walking were just enough for me to gulp in a big lungful of air before starting up again. At no point did my walking ever really slow down my overall pace by much, which was a huge difference from what I was doing before.
The end result?
My first-ever, sub30 5K.
I was in shock. Those were numbers I never thought I would see. Ever. But there they were.
This was the huge boost I needed. Knowing it was possible for me to reduce my pace enough to hit my goal on a training run sent my confidence soaring and made me excited about training.
Of course, ever cautious, I wanted to see if it was a fluke. You just never know.
Less than a week later, I had a chance to test myself in a race situation. With a gun start, impossibly high temperatures for 7:30 in the morning and a necessary water stop, I scored a 30:25, my new PR.
I don’t know if my smile could be any bigger.
So here we are. A few weeks and two races later. Things didn’t go as well my next 5K (report to come), but it was my second fastest time ever, so it wasn’t a complete loss. They can’t all be PRs.
I am thrilled that I have found a combination that seems to be bringing me closer to my goals.
I have some things to consider going forward. This interval pattern is definitely sustainable for the 5K distance. I also think I can maintain it through five miles. However, I’m not sure how much more I can go, reasonably, with summer setting in. With half marathon training about to start, I’ve got to figure out the best plan to make my long runs productive. I guess we will just have to see how things go.
In the meantime, I’m feeling pretty revitalized, which is making it much easier to put myself out there in both training and races. I’m hopeful that I can hold to this!
What’s something you changed up in training that yielded huge results?
If you use Galloway’s intervals, what ratio has worked best for you?
First, congrats on your shiny new PRs and increased speed. It is so rewarding to see the hard work pay off. I could have written the first half of this post. For the last year or so, my intervals have ranged between 2:1 and 3:1 and I haven’t seen any major time decreases. I never considered shorter intervals but I’m going to give it a shot. Thanks for the great idea!
Well, I can’t take credit for the idea. Jeff Galloway and the running communities of Facebook can’t be wrong! I’ll be honest – I thought the whole shorter interval thing was ridiculous. How could that possibly make anyone go faster? But, I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong.
Yesssssss This is so awesome! I’ve said it before, but 1,000,000 congratulations on your sub-30 PR, that is so great! And AMEN to your point that not all races can be PRs – definitely something I need to keep in mind!
I am not very familiar with intervals but know they work very well for thousands of runners. I recommend them to lots of friends, an now I can refer them to this post for some more real world information on them!
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Thank you, Anne!
Yeah, it’s hard to swallow that some races will just go way better than others. But, things happen and I can live with that. Just gives you something to shoot for next time.
Intervals have been a godsend for me. They are certainly not right for everyone, but I think it’s so awesome that I am running faster with intervals than I ever was running straight through. It defies logic for me, but I’ll take it!
I am so proud of you. I definitely need to play around with my intervals more, especially since I’ve dropped my mileage. You’re my inspiration right now!!
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Thank you! I don’t know how inspirational this is, but it’s really nice to see the progress and hard work paying off.
Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home says
Great job on the PR! I don’t do the run-walk method. A few years ago I decided to change things up by working with a coach to get stronger. Adding weights to my regimen was life changing for me.
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Strength training is a huge step! I need to be better about that!
Jennifer Lefforge says
Love this! Just switched to intervals last year and my times have improved greatly, too – just did a half PR by over 9 minutes!! I have my first ever 5K coming up (weird, right? 15 halts, 4 fuels, never done a 5K!) and I wasn’t considering doing intervals but now I am!! Great job!!
You are doing awesome!
It’s not weird at all. Distance/endurance running like you would do with a half or full is a completely different beast than a 5K or 10K where it’s more about speed. I’ve always done a combo of 5Ks and longer distances, but my training focus was on the longer races, so my pace demonstrated that.
I’ve been working so hard on my 5K that I’m having a rough time transitioning my mindset to half training.
Best of luck on your first! Come back and tell us how it goes!
Mer @ScootaDoot says
Wow! I am so glad that I read this post. I haven’t hit the ever elusive sub-30 5k and I’m thinking that I might just have to play with my intervals to maybe get a chance to do it. I just wasn’t sure where I should go with mine. Now I have a jumping off point and maybe, just maybe, I can get there too! Way to go!
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Go, go, go! It was pretty scary to make the leap to something new, but I am so glad I did.
Obviously, this was just my own personal experiment, with my own results, but I can’t say it wasn’t pretty effective 🙂 Give it a shot! What’s the worst that can happen? I also found that changing things up made me feel so much more confident! Report back!
Frank@The Fat Runner says
2:1 seems to be my optimal interval at the moment but I’m concentrating on longer distances. I do want to share a few things with you.
One of the hardest things for a runner is to change their routine. Especially a routine that has yielded results in the past. Don’t be afraid to change things up. As long as you run, you can never “waste” a run by trying something new. There are gains to be had even if the particular thing you tried doesn’t work. Sometimes when you experiment, the patient dies but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Don’t be afraid to change it up and try new things.
Secondly, the quest for speed can be just as challenging as the quest for endurance. In fact, if you are a slower runner like me(not as slow like me but you know what I mean), it can be even more challenging than gaining endurance. Going for any type of specific number on a 5K is not for the faint of heart. And you are doing awesome by the way. I mean, sub-30 minute 5K? In about a thousand years for me!
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Mr PugRunner has been working at 2:1 with great success.
I have a hard time experimenting. Running doesn’t come easy to me by any stretch of the imagination: for example, if I take new nutrition out on a long run and it messes up my stomach causing me to have to stop my run, I’m not going to be incredibly motivated to get back out there to make up the miles in the next day or two just because it was so hard the first time around. Again, it’s my brain causing me issues more than anything else.
Before I even finished C25K, I had registered for a half marathon. Since the beginning I have been gunning for endurance. I am pretty much of the impression that I can put one foot in front of the other for a really, really, really long time. Switching gears to try for the speed over a shorter distance is extremely intimidating. I think it’s pretty evident because I can do it in training, but so far, not in a race (who’s hard on herself? who is?). This has been a very different ballgame for me. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I always enjoy getting your perspective. 🙂
Shannon Linder says
I’m so thankful you’ve posted about this! I’ve been doing the 3/1 ratio for almost a year now and haven’t strayed from it. It worked well for my last half. I was faster with it, but I’d definitely like to improve more.
I really want to get out and try your new intervals!!
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Give it a shot! I think I am going to go back to 3:1 for my half training – it regulates me a little better and I’m not quite as concerned about my pace in a half. I did great with it at Space Coast last year and I think I will be able to improve my base and make it work again.
Stacie Seidman says
LOVE this! I’m so glad you shared this. I am hoping to get back to straight running, but my body has not been into it lately. This method was fantastic on my 6 miler last weekend, and I’m curious how it will go moving forward.
Thanks again for sharing, and CONGRATS on being all speedy now!
Stacie Seidman recently posted…Thursday’s Threads: Rio’s Birthday Edition
I’m glad that I was finally about TO share it!
Obviously, I support intervals over straight running, because my results are better with intervals. However, I have friends who have managed to either extend their running intervals or decrease their rest intervals in order to get back to straight running. Whatever works out there, right?
Thank you 🙂
You are doing an amazing job! It is always a bit scary to adjust the interval, but it is nice when you find the “sweet spot” as I call it.
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It was scary, but I am so glad it worked out. love the “sweet spot!”
That’s awesome! Breaking 30 minutes for a 5k is a HUGE milestone. I’m glad the intervals are working! I bet you could do the same interval for the 1/2 marathon distance if you slowed down your running a bit.
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I do have a hard time slowing down and speeding up. I have to work on that. But it’s a good suggestion, so maybe, once I get done with the next few 5Ks, I will work on that.
Abby @ BackAtSquareZero says
I am so happy you have been changing it up and finding something that works for you. WOOHOO!
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I’m so happy too! It’s been tough finding the right method, but I’m so glad this one seems to be working.
Mary Beth Jackson says
congrats! You have been working hard! I haven’t tried this method so thanks for sharing! I want to shake it up a bit this summer just haven’t decided how 🙂
Mary Beth Jackson recently posted…Flat Skippy- Ready for Nashville!
Thank you! It’s always good to try new things! or so they tell me 🙂 Have a great time in Nashville!
Lisa @ Lisa Runs for Cupcakes says
That smile said it all! Congrats!! I’m so happy you found a groove that works for you 🙂
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John (Daddy Runs a Lot) says
I can’t see a post about intervals without mentioning fartleks — because fartlek is fun to type 🙂
Congrats on the sub-30 5k — that’s a HUGE accomplishment!
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FARTLEKS!!!!! I love them. And you’re right. It is just so fun to say!