What’s the Optimal Interval Training Frequency for Improving 800m Running Times?

Runners of all levels frequently ponder on the most effective strategies for improving their performance. More specifically, middle-distance runners often question the optimal frequency of interval training to enhance their 800m running times. The purpose of this article is to provide a comprehensive understanding of frequency, intensity, and recovery time in interval training, taking into account the latest scholarly and scientific research. Let’s delve deeper into the topic.

Unraveling the Concept of Interval Training

Before moving further, let’s ensure that we all understand the concept of interval training. Interval training refers to a type of training where you alternate periods of high-intensity workouts with periods of rest or lower intensity exercises. It’s a great technique to improve both your speed and cardiovascular fitness.

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Interval training has been recognized by many health and fitness professionals as a highly effective form of exercise. Especially for runners, interval training is crucial, not just for improving overall fitness, but more specifically, for increasing speed over a set distance. It can push your body to adapt and become faster over time. According to a study published on PubMed, interval training can improve running performance by increasing aerobic capacity and enhancing the ability to maintain a high speed for a longer period.

Frequency of Interval Training

Deciding on the frequency of interval training can be a tricky task. There’s a delicate balance to be struck. Too much high intensity work can lead to overtraining and potential injury, while too little may not provide the stimulus needed for performance improvements.

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Research indicates that middle-distance runners should include at least two interval training sessions per week in their training plans. These sessions should be spaced to allow adequate recovery in between. According to a scholar, an optimal interval training program for 800m runners should include a mix of short, medium, and long intervals, allowing for the development of both speed and endurance.

The Role of Intensity in Interval Training

Intensity plays a critical role in interval training. The goal is to run at a speed that’s hard for you to maintain, then rest before repeating. This cycle of high-intensity work followed by recovery is what makes interval training so effective.

Intensity can also influence the time it takes for you to recover between intervals. A recent study showed that runners who performed intervals at 95% of their maximum speed needed longer recovery times than those who ran at 90%. It’s essential to monitor your intensity during workouts, ensuring you’re pushing hard enough to make gains, but not so hard that you can’t recover adequately.

Recovery Time and Interval Training

Recovery time plays a pivotal role in interval training. It is the time spent resting between intervals, which allows your body to remove waste products from your muscles and replenish energy stores.

According to a research on PubMed, the length of recovery time between intervals can significantly impact your training performance. Short recovery times may limit your ability to maintain a high-intensity effort in subsequent intervals. Conversely, very long recovery times might reduce the intensity of the session, making the workout less effective. As a rule of thumb, your recovery time should be long enough that you can complete the next interval at the desired pace but not so long that your heart rate drops too far.

Tailoring Interval Training for 800m Race Performance

The 800m race is a unique blend of speed and endurance, demanding both high-intensity effort and the ability to maintain that effort over a significant distance. Therefore, the interval training approach needs to be tailored to these specific demands.

One approach that has been suggested in a scholarly article is a combination of short, high-intensity intervals with longer, lower-intensity intervals. This approach would mimic the demands of the 800m race, challenging both your speed and endurance. For instance, a session might include a series of 200m intervals run at your target 800m pace, followed by longer 400m or 600m intervals run at a slightly slower speed.

Remember, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Each runner is unique, with individual strengths, weaknesses, and goals. Therefore, it’s essential to tailor your interval training to your specific needs and monitor your progress regularly. With the right approach, interval training can significantly improve your 800m performance.

Incorporating Strength Training and Sprint Training

It’s critical to realize that interval training is just one component of a comprehensive training program. Strength training and sprint training are also essential elements, especially for distance runners aiming to improve their 800m times.

Strength training, as highlighted by numerous publications on Google Scholar, can dramatically boost running performance. It strengthens the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, reducing the risk of injury and improving power and speed. Strength training exercises for runners often target the core, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.

In addition to interval sessions, incorporating sprint training into your regimen can be beneficial. Sprint training, like interval training, involves bouts of high intensity running. However, it focuses more on maximum speed – usually over much shorter distances. By working at or near maximum speed, runners can enhance their speed endurance – the ability to maintain high speeds over longer distances. A typical sprint training session might include a series of 100m or 200m sprints at near-maximum effort, with full recovery between each sprint.

An integrated training program, including strength training, sprint training, and interval training, will yield the best results for 800m runners. It’s about striking the right balance and ensuring you’re not overdoing any one element.

The Impact of the Anaerobic Threshold on Interval Training

Another key aspect to consider when planning interval sessions is the anaerobic threshold. This is the exercise intensity at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood faster than it can be removed. It’s a critical factor in middle distance running, including the 800m.

If you train above your anaerobic threshold during interval sessions, lactic acid build-up can lead to premature fatigue, reducing the quality of your workout. On the other hand, if you train below the threshold, you may not push your body hard enough to see improvements.

According to an article on PubMed, interval training can enhance the anaerobic threshold, leading to better race performance. Therefore, finding the right intensity – close to but not above your anaerobic threshold – is crucial.

Monitoring heart rate during interval sessions can be helpful in maintaining the desired intensity. Be aware, though, that heart rate response can be influenced by various factors, including hydration status, temperature, and fatigue levels. Therefore, it’s recommended to use heart rate in conjunction with perceived exertion and pace min/mile to gauge intensity accurately.


In conclusion, interval training is a powerful tool for improving 800m running times. However, it’s not a standalone solution. It should be part of a well-rounded training program that also includes strength training and sprint training.

Interval sessions should be tailored to the specific demands of the 800m race, incorporating a mix of high intensity, short intervals, and longer, lower intensity intervals. Frequency, intensity, and recovery time should be carefully considered to avoid overtraining and maximize improvements.

The anaerobic threshold is another key factor to consider when planning interval workouts. Training at an intensity close to but not exceeding the anaerobic threshold can optimize performance gains.

Remember that every runner is unique. Therefore, it’s vital to listen to your body, adjust your training as needed, and monitor your progress over time. With a well-planned, individualized approach, you can effectively use interval training to reach your 800m goals.