The 30/60/90 Mixed Interval Workout for Runners
When runners first start out, they are often just holding their own, trying to survive each run they set out on. As you progress and grow as a runner, you are probably looking at something to help mix things up a bit.
Did you know there is a great deal of research out there regarding varying your distance, pace and intensity of workout in order to yield the best results?
First Things First: Consistency and Variation
In order to improve as a runner, you need to be running consistently. That is a no-brainer. However, consistent running does not mean doing the same thing over and over. Hear me out.
New runners often decide they will run a certain number of times each week. That often ends up being a 2-4 mile run, at the same exact pace, every time the runner sets out.
When you are starting out and building a cardiovascular base, this plan works out fine. If you are looking to grow and advance as a runner, you need to mix things up.
Whether your goal is weight loss, fat burning, getting faster or training for a race, mixing up your workout will help you grow.
What is 30/60/90?
Prior to delving into what this type of workout would look like, you may need a brief explanation. It really is quite simple. You will run at varying paces for either :30, :60 or :90 seconds.
Each of these intervals will be followed by either a rest or easier interval. So you might run :30 seconds at your mile pace, followed by :30 seconds at your 10K pace, then repeat. Or you might run :60 seconds at a hard pace with a :60 complete rest interval after.
Some runners think that 30/60/90 is not important for the recreational runner. They are wrong.
Not Just for “Serious Runners”
A glimpse into programs like Hal Higdon would have you thinking only your most advanced runners need to vary pace and distance regularly. I have a deep respect for experts like Higdon who create programs for people to follow.
After all, many, many people have found success following these plans. But if you look through the plans, the novice and intermediate plans don’t incorporate speed or interval type workouts.
Any runner, and I mean all of us, will benefit from varying pace. Speedwork or fartleks help you to get the wheels turning!
Just Like HIIT!
Have you ever taken a High Intensity Interval Training class? Whether you are into body combat, spin classes or tread tabata, if you take a group-type class, you will find yourself being pushed to the brink, followed by a rest interval.
HIIT training shifts your body into a higher metabolic rate of burning fat and calories, which is important if that is a goal of yours. HIIT training also improves your body’s oxygen and blood flow. A great method to raise your anaerobic threshold, HIIT is where it is at!
A 30/60/90 Workout
The most simple way to run 30/60/90 is as follows:
- Warm-up: This should include some gentle jogging, a dynamic warm-up and any stretching you need to do.
- Run 3 X :30 at a set pace. This can be shooting for a perceived effort or distance you are trying to get in that amount of time. After each :30 seconds of effort, you rest for :30.
- Run 3 X :60. Rest :60 after each effort.
- Run 3 X :90. Rest :90 after each effort.
- Cool down.
How to Determine Pace for Intervals
As a coach, when I am assigning intervals, there are a few ways to do this. You can think about perceived effort, a set pace for a distance you race/run, a distance you hope to travel over a predetermined amount of time, or a distance to run before the rest interval.
If you are doing a standard track workout, you are typically running a set distance. For example, your coach might assign you to run eight 400s. If you run 8 X 400, you will probably have an assigned warm-up, a goal to run each 400 in, as well as a determined amount of rest. Also, your plan may tell you if you should rest, walk or easily jog the rest intervals.
When doing intervals by time, it all looks different. If you are running for a set amount of time, you may be told to try to hit a certain pace. I might tell an athlete to “run 8 X :60 seconds at a 5K pace.” If you are doing this, you are trying to dial into the pace you will hit when racing a 5K. Doing repeats at a set pace helps you to recognize how your body will feel when holding that pace.
Another technique is to do repeats by a perceived level of exertion. Perhaps your workout will say to run at 75-85% of your perceived effort. Think about this for a moment. That means that the distance you travel for a set amount of time may change over the course of the workout. Makes sense, right? If you are running at 75-85% effort based on how your body feels, as you hammer through repeats you might feel like the work is getting harder to do the same thing.
Sometimes I do workouts that are a set amount of time, then a much shorter recovery, and my goal is to travel the same distance or further with each effort. This is different than the 30/60/90, but the same idea. One workout I do is (after a warm-up) 4:00 minutes hard effort followed by 1:00 walking or rest. One way I do this workout is to run hard all 4 minutes, trying to run at least an 800 or more. As you can imagine, it gets harder as I complete more repeats.
Variations of 30/60/90
There are many different ways to do this workout. For example, you might do a sort of pyramid. In a pyramid you might do :30 hard and :30 easy, then :60 hard with :60 easy, followed by :90 hard and :90 easy. That would be the top of the pyramid so you work your way back down (:60/:60 then :30/:30).
You might do repeats in sequence, as mentioned above. Such as: 3 X :30 (30 run then 30 rest), 3 X :60, then 3 X :90). Notice your rest interval is equal to your work interval.
A twist might be to start with the longer interval. Just reverse the workout. Try the :90 second intervals at your 5K pace, then the :60 second intervals at your mile pace, followed last by the :30 second intervals at your “celebration pace.” Celebration pace is the fastest you run!
Once you get really good at doing these intervals, instead of rest between the work interval, you might choose to jog easily at your sexy pace. This active recovery is really good for your body and builds endurance.
However you choose to implement this type of workout, your body and running will benefit.