Running Intervals for Beginners – How to Hit the Ground Running


While running may seem like a simple exercise for many, there are several ways that you can go about it. One of those ways is to do interval running.

Interval running is more than just running fast and then slow. Running intervals provide many benefits to improve your training, health, and overall running ability. But where do you start?

Keep reading to learn more about interval running and to discover the top tips for running intervals for beginners. 

What Is Interval Running?

First things first: what is interval running?

Interval running is running at a faster pace for short periods. Specifically, it involves running fast for a certain amount of time, then jogging at an easy pace for a certain amount of time. This process is repeated several times throughout your run.

Running intervals is a form of HIIT workout – high-intensity interval training. HIIT training provides an intense workout in less time than a consistent moderate-intensity workout would. Truly, you’ll feel how vigorous a workout running intervals can be!

You may remember this run from gym class, but it provides numerous benefits for adults looking to improve their health and training. Let’s take a look at the advantages of running intervals. 

Man jogging down long red paved road in treed area

Benefits of Running Intervals

One of the main benefits of running intervals is that you get a high-intensity workout in a short amount of time. It’s an efficient way to maximize your aerobic performance. In fact, a typical interval running session should not last more than 20 minutes.

There are a variety of other benefits that you can enjoy from running intervals. Some of those benefits include:

  • Lower heart rate, blood pressure, and risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Increase the amount of body fat burned
  • Improve aerobic capacity
  • Working more muscles
  • Burn more calories 

Now that you know the benefits of running intervals, there’s little reason not to start. However, if you’ve never done interval running before, knowing how exactly to start is important. 

Running Intervals for Beginners – Where to Start

Starting to run intervals can be daunting, especially for beginner runners. However, there are a few rules of thumb that, if you follow, will make the experience a lot more enjoyable.

Here are the top tips for running intervals for beginners. 

Warm Up

One of the most important things to do before any run is to warm up.

The first thing that you must do to warm up is to stretch. Preparing your muscles for your run with some pre-run stretches is important. This minimizes the risk of injury and ensures maximum performance.

Once you’ve stretched, you’ll want to warm up your body and get it into the running motion by doing some light jogging. 

Your warm-up for interval running will be significantly longer than each interval. A light 5-minute job is a reasonable amount of time to warm up. During this time, you should use minimal effort not to tire yourself out too early. You’ll need that energy for your intervals!

Start Slow

The most important aspect of running intervals is the interval nature of it, not necessarily the speed. So when starting running intervals for beginners, it’s a good idea to do that running portion at a pace that is comfortable to you.

For example, your jogging intervals should be 20 to 30% of your total intensity. However, to start, you may want to keep your maximum efforts on the running portion to about 50%, especially if you aren’t an experienced runner. 

This will ensure you don’t burn out too quickly during your intervals. If you are a more experienced runner but are new to running intervals, you can increase your running intensity to 60% or even 70% during intervals. You may want to start interval running on a treadmill, as controlling your pace is easier. 

The speed you run depends on your skill level and your goals. Just be sure to start at a place that is comfortable for you.

Keep the Time to a Minimum

One of the best parts about running intervals is that the intervals are relatively short. 

When it comes to running intervals for beginners, a safe place to start is to run for 1 minute, then jog for 2 minutes. However, you can adjust this based on your comfort and skill level. Whether that means running for 2 minutes and jogging for 1 minute or running for 30 seconds and jogging for 2 minutes, the critical part is that you are indeed running intervals. 

As you become more comfortable, prolong the running portion and cut the jogging portion short so you can build up your endurance.

As a beginner, the total time for your interval running workout shouldn’t exceed 20 minutes, so repeat the intervals until you reach about that mark. The 20 minutes should include the warm-up and cool-down, including a post-run stretch session!

Bring It Together: Running Intervals for Beginners Example

Let’s bring everything that we’ve learned together. Here’s an example of how exactly how your interval session should look:

  • Stretch
  • Warm-up: 5-minute jog
  • Run: 1 minute
  • Jog: 2 minutes
  • Run: 1 minute
  • Jog: 2 minutes
  • Run: 1 minute
  • Jog: 2 minutes
  • Run: 1 minute
  • Cool down: 5-minute jog

Once again, you can adjust the time based on your skill level, but this is an excellent place for beginners to start!

Man and woman running together on treadmills in gym

Wrap-Up: Running Intervals for Beginners

While it is a very intense exercise, interval running is a great way to reach your goals and become a better runner

To recap, here are your main takeaways when it comes to running intervals for beginners:

  • Start at a pace that feels comfortable to you.
  • Keep your total workout to about 20 minutes.
  • Don’t forget to warm up and stretch!

You’ll eventually find a rhythm that works best for you as you get better at interval running. You may even end up enjoying interval running more than your regular runs!

author avatar
Josh Jacobson

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