Floating recoveries

Interval training comes in many different guises. Until I researched the science behind it I simply followed instructions that I found in magazines and on the Internet, or I mimicked my club’s coached sessions. I often found that I felt a little alienated from what I was doing during these sessions. I didn’t know if I was suitably out of breath and sweaty, or indeed not sweaty enough. After all, “8 out of 10” effort can mean a hundred different things to as many different people.

I’ve decided to write about some of my favourite threshold and speed sessions over the next few weeks and explain how to run them and how they work. That leaves you with the power to make informed changes and adaptations as you see fit.

This week the spotlight falls on the floating recoveries …

A targeted 5K workout:

Warm up
800m at current 10K pace
200m at marathon pace
Repeat 5-10 times
Cool down

The idea behind this session is that you will run 5-10km, 80% of which will be at pace. You could of course do a 700:300 split, or equally 600:400 (which is what I have started with). You could even run a 5K session with splits of 400:100 10 times.

Threshold training is effective because you repeatedly push your body to a point of fatigue (lactic threshold) and, just before it starts to burn out, you let your heart rate drop back down. Your body becomes more accustomed to running at effort without becoming fatigued and so over time you can run faster and/or longer. Normally a good threshold pace is around between your 10K and HM pace. Pushing it to 10K pace is quite high, so I started with a 600:400 ratio to make sure my heart rate definitely drops.

Threshold sessions need to build over time. One way to do this is to make your efforts longer or make your recoveries faster. But if you’re looking for a new challenge, these floating reps are a really hardcore way to up your game.

Rather than standing still during your recovery, or walking around in circles, hands behind your head, looking tough and intimidating joggers, you have to keep running, albeit more slowly at somewhere between marathon and half marathon pace. This is tough because you are expecting your heart rate to efficiently drop even though you are still running.

After a few days off training with a chesty cough I decided to give a floating interval session a go this morning. I found a 300m stretch of pavement and ran it out and back: 600m. I then jogged part the way out and back: 400m. And repeated 5 times.

I wanted to run at my current 10K pace which is 7:50-ish min/mile. Using a bit of maths (or an online calculator) I knew this meant running the 600m in a little under 3 minutes. It can be tempting to run faster when the distance is shorter, but remember: you don’t want to push your body past its point of fatigue or the session won’t work. There’s a lot to be said for running slower sometimes…

It was a tough session, but a fun one too. I definitely feel like I could push it harder next time to a 800m:200m ratio. I think 5 reps might be my limit for the time being though!

What is your favourite interval session? Do you prefer shorter, faster intervals or longer, slower ones?


One response to “Floating recoveries

  1. I don’t do interval sessions even though I know I should. I remember during my last half marathon training in 2010, it really helped me speed up on the longer runs even though I hated doing the interval training. Sometimes what’s good for you isn’t that nice.

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