INTERVAL TRAINING is a method of gaining speed and leg strength without having to use weight-training equipment. A proper interval workout will leave you a quivering, sweat-soaked mess, but the gains that you make are quite extraordinary. All you need to wear is your normal running kit and the only other requirement is somewhere to run.

The principle behind interval training is that you exercise hard, then recover just enough to repeat the exercise, over and over again during a relatively short period. To get the best results, the distance that you run should remain consistent and, consequently, athletes generally do interval sessions on a proper running track. This is by no means essential, because you can get equally good results running around the outside of a football or rugby pitch, or along a path where trees or lamp-posts are evenly spaced.

The First Interval Session

For your first interval session, try running 8 x too metres. This means that you will be sprinting for too metres exactly 8 times, with a measured rest period between each sprint. If you are using a running track it will be divided into four quarters of too metres each; if you are using a football pitch it will be about zoo metres long; while on a path or road select two objects that are too metres apart. All you have to do is this: once you have warmed up, go to the start of your first too-metre stretch and sprint, at too per cent effort, to the end of the leg. Now jog the next too metres, taking not more than 6o seconds, sprint the next ‘co and so on, until you have completed 8 sprints and 8 jogs. It sounds easy, but by the end of the session you will be wishing that you’d taken up knitting instead.

Building Up

As your fitness improves, you will be able to handle a much greater workload during interval sessions and you can experiment with much greater distances. For example, middle-and long-distance runners will often run intervals sets of a mile or more, repeated perhaps ten times as part of their training. While this is unnecessary for most people, a session of 8 x 400 metres is certainly worth a try.


Interval running is usually done at 100 per cent, but this doesn’t mean that you have to sprint at the same speed for 400 metres as you would over ioo metres. Use a speed appropriate for the distance that you’ve got to travel, but remember that you’ll be able to go faster and faster as the weeks go by.


Interval training helps you make large improvements to your fitness, but it takes a lot out of you. Don’t try to do more than one interval session a week at first and never do more than two unless you are training for something very speed-specific.

Speed WorkOuts take much more out of you th4n:normal running. If you find that you aren’t recOviaring from them quickly enough, shift your speed workout day so that it falls before a day off training. As you become stronger you wilt be more able to cope with kin the midst of your normal training.


FARTLEK IS A SWEDISH word meaning ‘speed play’, but fartlek running is a training technique that sits in between interval training and normal running as a means of building up leg strength. Once again, it requires no special equipment other than normal running gear and a place to run.

Fartlek Technique

A fartlek workout is normally done over your usual running routes. The technique consists of little more than constant changes of pace, combined, if possible, with running up and down a few hills. Typically, you might run the first mile at a fairly easy pace before moving up to 8o per cent of full effort for two minutes, then a jog for a minute, then Rio per cent effort for a minute, then 30 seconds of walking and so on. In this way, an aerobic run is combined with a strength session.

Messing Around

You need to make a plan before you start a fartlek session because it’s very easy to end up doing 90 per cent of the session at a gentle jog with a couple of sprints thrown in. Either exercise some self-discipline or run with a partner or in a small group — probably the most enjoyable way to do a

You an simplify fartlek workout by imposing some rules on yourself Finct’an undulating course and after you’ve joxed-for lC rnlnt.ites or so to warm up, run at normal pace on the flat, at 80 per cent effort on long hills, effort on short hills and jog the downhill stretches’. You should find-that this balinces itself out and removes the requirement for all that ompltated thinking. , fartlek session anyway. The best location for fartlek running is the countryside, or in a park or golf-course (if you can get permission), where you have a variety of different surfaces to run on, together with hills, trees, fresh air and all the rest of it. Lovely!


MULTIGYM, UNIVERSAL, NAUTILUS and all the other fitness machines have proved, by and large, to be a great help to those in search of fitness. A lot of the effort involved in shifting dumb-bells and bar-bells around is expended in balancing and controlling them. This may contribute to muscle growth for body-builders and the like, but the downside is that free weights are considerably more dangerous than a machine. If you get into trouble bench-pressing on a fitness machine, the weight is unlikely to fall on you – whereas with a free weight that could just happen.

Using Machines

It is not possible to give a detailed workout programme because fitness machines vary so much, but using a machine is the same as doing any other kind of weights exercise. The gains that you make are governed entirely by the number of repetitions that you do, the amount of weight that you shift on each repetition and the number of sets that you manage.

Designing a Circuit

There are, essentially, two types of fitness machine: integrated multi-exercise machines of the multigym kind, and specialized single-exercise machines. On a multigym, you can perform one exercise or more at each ‘station’, and the machines are generally designed so that you can start anywhere and then go to every station in turn, performing as many reps as you need. This also means that more than one person can use the machine at the same time. You can train like that, and many people do, but you may not get the best results. It is now quite widely accepted that you will achieve the best results by training each part of your body in turn, doing several different exercises for each part. Multi-exercise machines don’t really encourage you to do this. To get the maximum effect from them, don’t be fooled into doing a straight circuit – pick and choose from the menu of exercises on offer.

The sequence for a weight-training circuit is Chest, Shoulders, Back, Arms, Legs, Abdominals.

Exercise Number of Reps The Aim Nobody does super circuits for building muscle bulk, but what you should expect to achieve is an increase in both local muscular and cardio-vascular endurance. Consequently, the weights that you lift should be lighter than you would normally go for and you should try to do far more repetitions. You are normally helped in this by the fact that the sessions are done to music and divided up into sections about a minute long. You alternate between using a weight and bouncing about doing some aerobic exercise, trying to pack as many reps as possible into a minute.


A word of warning about group super circuits. Anyone can go to them! This can mean that some terrifying-looking people dressed up in lurex will be wobbling around. Don’t fall into this trap yourself – if you’re a bit overweight, wear a bulky T-shirt and a pair of shorts. You’ll look a lot better and you will be a whole lot more comfortable.


You will find ‘super circuits’ in one form or another at most sports centres and gyms. Super circuits are, normally, an organized group session which combines the best aspects of aerobics with weight exercises in a fun format with some loud music thrown in. All the super circuits that I’ve been to have included a good warm-up at the start and, just as importantly, an organized warm down afterwards. Even better news is that some sports centres have bars where you can have a beer or two after the session, safe in the knowledge that it isn’t going to go straight to your waistline.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Pinterest