**Today’s post is courtesy of Tegan. Read on for more information on how you can join her for a free session**
If you are not aware of Parkrun it is time I gave you a quick lesson in the best exercise of the week. A group of volunteers in over 516 UK locations host a 5km timed and marshalled FREE (yes, free!) run around a local park, National Trust or open area. 1,000s of runners of varying ages, sizes, weights and fitness abilities all turn up on the start line at 9am and run a 5km course.
Although you don’t have to sign up to join Parkrun, I suggest you do as at the end of each race you have a small barcode scanned and a time logged for the event.
I committed to Parkrun 11 months ago with my first ever 5km run (I walked 200m) coming in at 41 minutes. 6 months in and I found myself attending Parkrun every week not getting much faster. I could not go below 33 minutes. A chat with personal trainer Becky Mitchell and it showed that although I was clocking up 15-20km a week, I was running wasted miles and plodding around was not doing much. She suggested some interval training within my runs.
What is Interval Training?
Interval Training is a workout that can be done with any type of exercise, but in context of running it is a mixture of high and low intensity periods in the same work out. The aim is to work very hard for a short amount of time (I call it at 100%) to raise your heart level and push yourself. This mixed with longer periods of lower intensity training (60-70%) which is your recovery section.
The aim is to keep the body guessing as to what you will do and not allow it or you to become complacent. The mixture of high and low-level workout gives you an overall cardiovascular and anaerobic workout, allowing you to train harder and for longer. By working your body hard when it is tired you are training it to work better all the time.
My Own Personal Training Session at Parkrun – FOR FREE
So, I turn up to Eastville Parkrun on a cold (it was freezing) February morning with two other running buddies ready to include a training run in my fitness programme. Armed with just my standard running gear (I needed gloves and I still do) and an app pre planned with my times entered in Intervals – HIIT Workout iPhone app.
I am a glasses wearer that doesn’t wear glasses in exercise, so an app was chosen as I struggle to see the time on my fit bit. The app was great and advised me when each high and low period was and count downs. Although me shouting to the girls “at pace” and “at speed” around the course for 30+ minutes was quite weird.
- 7 minute warm up
- 1 minute on and 2 minutes off x 5 (repeat 3 times)
- Cool down was after the run
My Km time is between 6 minutes and 6 minutes 20 seconds and this equates for the first lap of the run, so we set the timer for 7 minutes just in case we got caught up with runners. I decided for safety, or having people in the way, I was better ensuring that I didn’t start my intervals (which don’t need to be a full park run) until the first lap was over and because
- I started the fast interval going down hill
- Less runners around to be in the way
- Ensure that I was properly warmed up
Lap 1 – A steady run around at a good pace with fresh legs, but mainly just getting through the crowds and ensuring it was under 7 minutes (I suggest you make it quicker and keep your km time, I should have done 6:15)
Lap 2 – We started the intervals and just 2 sets into the intervals I could already feel how much harder I was working to previous Parkruns. The whole first set was not so bad as it’s the downhill and a reasonably flat section of the course. We pushed ourselves on that first lap knowing that this was the easy bit of work in comparison to the hill we would get.
Lap 3 – Now we were half way through the intervals and had tackled the long Eastville Hill, which is the full length of the park. The upside was where we were so focused on running and keeping the intervals that we pushed right up the hill with no breaks. To say we didn’t notice the hill is a lie. I felt every step, but knowing that 1 minute of hard work would be rewarded with 2 mins recovery allowed me to push through the mental barriers you face exercising.
The Finish – I had set the intervals up with breaks and timings to meet a 33-minute 5km which was my mistake. I had aimed to improve my Parkrun time and it wouldn’t matter if I had to keep running after I finished but I should have ensured that my intervals would be complete.
With probably only 100 metres to go finished my last fast paced interval with my legs screaming, gasping for breath and willing my arms to move. Now although not the fastest or fittest runner, my signature move is a sprint finish
- You finish as fast as you can to get the best time
- It is over that bit quicker
- I think the rugby player in me has try line fever
- You get a really big clap and loud cheer from everyone there
Having sprinted for 15 minutes of park run and run normal pace for another 15 ish I ignored my recovery run and sprinted over that finish line with nothing left to give.
Park Run Time 31:07 – A whole 2 minutes off my PB.
What I Learnt from Interval Training
Interval training is a great way that you can turn your own run into a proper workout. If I could keep off the weight and eat what I like I probably wouldn’t run at all. I hate wasting a run and knowing that its not burning off calories. So, I will finish with my top tips
- Less is more. Next time I do this I will do bring down my intervals to 30 seconds hard running and 1-minute recovery.
- Intervals mean you work as hard as in a class – the app was like having an instructor.
- Do it with friends – its much easier to push yourself with some healthy competition.
- It is Free – A HIIT workout class is between £6-£9. The app was free and so is Parkrun.
- It isn’t for every Parkrun – you will never get a PB every week.
Would I do it again? Hell yes! Actually, I will be at Eastville on Saturday so see you there.
Tegan Groombridge is a writer for My Favourite Voucher Codes with retailers like Sports Direct and Argos for deals on fitness, a voucher code website that donates 20% of its profits to charity every month. She is now a keen runner and is looking at going sub 30 in June 2018. You will find her most Saturdays at a Parkrun in the UK.