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Running Intervals for Weight Loss: Workouts, Schedule
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Running Intervals for Weight Loss: Workouts, Schedule

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by Isabel Mayfield | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on August 19, 2022
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10 min

Interval training is increasing in popularity all the time, and for a good reason. They are one of the best exercises for boosting your metabolism and burning fat, and the effects can be felt long after your workout is done.

running intervals for weight loss

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Have you gotten a little too comfortable with your runs or noticed that you always run at the same slow pace and have a hard time challenging yourself?

It could be time for you to start penciling some interval training into your running workouts!

If you are running for weight loss, interval training is one of the best ways for you to start shedding pounds. 

Not only that, but interval training boasts numerous cardiovascular benefits.

Long breaks in-between periods of high intensity also make it accessible to people of all fitness levels. This means it’s a great fit for anyone, even those who are just starting out.

Are Running Intervals Good for Weight Loss?

In general, running is one of the best exercises for weight loss due to the high amount of calories you burn while doing it. 

Interval training is thought to be even better for weight loss than steady runs done at the same moderate pace. 

This is in part due to the effects interval running has on the way your body metabolizes stored nutrients to fuel your workouts. Aerobic intervals activate a switch from using carbs as a fuel source to instead targeting fat.

This switch is great for anyone dealing with stubborn belly fat that regular running doesn’t seem to help them get rid of.

You can also count on increasing the “afterburn effect,” which leads your metabolism to elevate long after your workout is finished, both of which can help keep you in a fat-burning mode and start shedding pounds.

Interval Running for Weight Loss

When it comes to interval training for runners, there are a few different workout types. It might take some time and experimenting to figure out which of these workouts feel best for you. 

In the beginning, feel free to focus on whichever of these workouts feels the most accessible and comfortable for you. Over time, as your strength and level of fitness increase, it will be a good idea to branch out and try something new.

Regularly switching your running routine will not only help stave off the boredom but will also force you to challenge yourself and expand your running vocabulary. You know what they say – it’s the exercises you hate doing that you should be doing the most.

VO2 max specific interval

Research shows that running between 3–5 minutes is the best way to improve your V02 max – which, simply put, is the amount of oxygen your body can use while you exercise.

The reason it’s beneficial to increase this threshold is that exercising with high levels of oxygen means you won’t have to switch to anaerobic system activation, which is an unsustainable way to train. 

PaceLengthHeart rateRepetition
VO2 Max Specific IntervalAs fast as possible1:1 ratio5 minutes all-out effort5-minute recovery period90% MHR4 times

Tempo run

Tempo runs are often done at a sustained pace, in a space right before you make the switch into anaerobic respiration. 

This is great for increasing your lactate threshold, which will help you do high-intensity runs for longer without needing to make the switch from aerobic to anaerobic respiration.

There are two different kinds of tempo runs, and in this article, we will be focusing on tempo mile repeats, as they are better for sprint interval training.

PaceLengthHeart rateRepetition
Tempo mile repeatBetween 7–9 on a scale of difficulty3:2 ratio10 minutes high-intensity output2–3-minute recovery period70–80% MHR3–5 times

High-intensity interval training

This kind of training is meant to be done as fast as possible, kicking your anaerobic system into high gear. 

Generally, they are short sprints that are done at maximum capacity, followed by a long jog to help you return your heart rate back to normal levels and keep your blood flowing to flush out any lactate build-up.

PaceLengthHeart rateRepetition
High-intensity interval trainingAs fast a possible1:5 ratio60 seconds all-out effort5-minute recovery period85–95% MHR5 times

Fartleks

This is a sprint interval training exercise that can be more open-ended and doesn’t require as much tracking as some of the previous options – though using a heart rate monitor is still recommended.

This makes it perfect for anyone wanting to go for a more unplanned jog outdoors, maybe through a park near their home or even just around their neighborhood.

To perform this exercise, you would simply choose an object in the distance to run to – it could be a fire hydrant or a tree. You would then run as fast as you can until you reach this object, at which time you could return to a more moderate pace.

There is no specific length that your recovery interval duration should be. Instead, you should simply aim to return to between 50–60% of your maximum heart rate and maintain this pace for as long as it feels good for you.

PaceLengthHeart rateRepetition
FartlekBetween 7–9 on a scale of difficultyOpen-endedHigh intensity for as long as possibleWalking or light jogging to recover70–90% MHR30–45 minutes

How to Prepare for Interval Running?

Since running intervals involve high-intensity output, it is important to prepare your body properly beforehand. 

The following tips will not only help you get the most out of your next intense training session but can also help set you up to stay injury-free.

#1 Always warm up before running

You should always include a warm-up before beginning any kind of high-intensity interval training. 

Doing so can not only be useful in getting your body ready for your workout, but it can even help you feel more mentally prepared. It increases your body temperature, gets your blood pumping to where it needs to go, and even loosens stiff joints.

These warm-up benefits are essential for high-intensity training because cold muscles and tendons are at risk of being pulled or torn. 

Not taking the time to properly warm up can leave you at risk of a number of injuries and could be the reason you are experiencing pain in your body while you run – especially your calves. 

#2 Pre-plan your training program

Showing up empty-handed to your training session is a good way to ensure you don’t get the most out of your workout.

It can leave you browsing online for ideas or just running on a wing and a prayer with no real idea of what your goals are for the day.

Whether you decide to take time the night before your workout to outline what you’ll be doing the next day or make a long-term running plan spanning a few weeks or a month is up to you.

One of the benefits of taking time to plan out a more long-term program is that you can be intentional about planning out rest days and work them around higher-intensity workouts. 

Not taking on too much at once is important in preventing overuse injuries like sore knees and shin splints.

#3 Hydrate properly

Being adequately hydrated is essential for temperature regulation, cushioning our joints, and preventing cramping and discomfort in our muscles while we run.

As we exercise, our body’s temperature increases, which activates our sweat glands’ function. These glands bring water to the surface of our skin, where it can evaporate.

This is the process that allows our bodies to stay cool while we exercise, and it is especially important for anyone choosing to exercise outside on hot days.

Another negative effect of lack of hydration is muscle cramping due to a lack of blood flow as well as a decrease in the number of electrolytes necessary for our movements.

#4 Grab a heart rate monitor

Being aware of your heart rate throughout your workout is one of the most important parts of interval training. 

Keeping yourself in optimal ranges throughout your workout is what keeps you in a zone of burning fat instead of carbs. Finding and maintaining this range will be difficult without the help of a proper heart rate monitor.

Start by figuring out your maximum heart rate, which can be done by subtracting your age from the number 220. Although this number won’t be exact, it will give you a good idea of the fastest your heart should beat.

From there, you can figure out the numbers that correlate with each range, depending on if you’re in a running or recovery phase.

  • Warm-up phase: During your warm-up – which should last between 5 and 10 minutes – you should aim to be between 60% and 70% of your maximum heart rate. 

This will allow you to get your blood pumping and increase the amount of oxygen that is reaching your muscles.

  • High-intensity interval phase – During your high-intensity training interval, you should aim to be somewhere between 80% and 95% of your maximum heart rate. 

How long you can maintain this output will be dependent on your fitness level but should last anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes.

  • Cool-down phase – Next, you should bring your heart rate back down to between 40% and 50% of your maximum heart rate. Avoid sitting down or standing still, and instead, walk or jog slowly in order to keep your blood pumping. 

This cool-down period should last between 3 and 5 minutes but can be extended if it takes longer for you to return to a natural heart rate.

#5 Dress comfortably

Clothing

What you wear while you run might not seem significant, but you would be surprised by the level of impact your clothing can have on your running efficiency.

It’s difficult to concentrate when you are wearing a sports bra with not enough support or shorts that constantly ride up. 

Not to mention that when exercising outside, whether you dress appropriately for the cold or heat, could truly make or break your workout.

For all of your workouts, you should be choosing lightweight materials that are moisture-wicking and fit snug – but not too snug. 

Doing so can ensure you feel comfortable, have a full range of motion, and allow proper blood circulation throughout your entire body.

Footwear

Even though you can run in just about anything, including bare feet, it doesn’t mean you should.

A pair of lightweight running shoes with proper support could be a pricey initial investment, but it will definitely pay off in the long run.

If you are running for weight loss, it’s important to be mindful of the fact that running is a high-impact sport, meaning it can place a lot of burden on your bones and joints. 

Getting shoes with a good amount of cushion can help minimize this impact while you run and reduce your risk of overuse injuries such as shin splints.

Not only that, but shoes that don’t fit snug can cause blisters, making it even less comfortable for you to finish your sprint interval training.

How Often Is It Recommended to Do Interval Running to Lose Weight? 

If you want to start losing body fat, you should be doing interval training 3–4 times a week.

If you are running for weight loss, the most important thing will be consistency. With that being said, running when you are out of shape can be hard on your body, which is why it’s important for you to also pencil in a couple of rest days every week.

You can still go for light jogs on your “off” days if that feels good for you, but make sure they are done at a low-intensity, slow pace.

Apps for Interval Running

As with most things in this new-age world, there is an app that has been created to help make preparing for and finishing your workouts even easier.

Although a lot of the appeal of running is the fact that it is so simple – all you need is a pair of running shoes – as with anything, the more time and energy you put into preparing yourself, the better the outcome.

Joggo 

This is our personal favorite when it comes to running apps.

Joggo is the perfect app for anyone who wants to run for weight loss because of its availability of personalized training programs.

Joggo
Running Training App Designed for Your Lasting Running Habits
  • Personalized running plans created by professional coaches
  • Meal plans perfectly tailored to your current diet, allergies, and health needs
  • Treadmill mode for people preferring indoor running
  • Educational articles on easier running, injury prevention, nutrition, and more
  • Behavior science-based reward system for lasting motivation
Our rating:
4.7
Learn More

When you download the app, it will take you through your first run, and based on those results, create a running program – including meal plans options – specific to your current level of fitness.

It can help you nail some of the trickier running workouts, especially intervals that require more structure. Their reminders can help keep you consistent, and their variety of running programs can keep you engaged over the long term.

A Word From Our Coach

Interval training is one of the best forms of exercise for anyone wanting to lose weight. 

Although interval running is definitely high-intensity, it also includes long breaks to recover.

These breaks can be taken to jog or walk at a slow pace in between sessions making it more accessible for anyone. Including those in the early stages of their weight loss journey.

Don’t feel bad if, in the beginning, your maximum speed only happens to be what others would consider a moderate pace.

Regardless of how fast you move, you can trust that running intervals will work wonders when it comes to burning calories. No matter your pace, you can trust that interval training will help your body stay in fat-burning mode long after your workout is finished.

Running workouts are meant to be done in a way that challenges you but still feels good, so always keep that in mind when you run.

Be mindful of the fact that even aerobic intervals can take a toll on your body, and treat yourself to all of the rest days that you need in between your interval training sessions.

Bottom Line

In this article, we’ve outlined the various types of interval training for runners, including interval running, tempo runs, and fartleks. 

We’ve also helped shed light on all the reasons why these kinds of exercises are so helpful for kickstarting weight loss.

Things like increased metabolism as well as more calories in the form of fats being burned – not only during your running workouts but afterward too – are the main reasons why interval running for weight loss is so effective.

If you are interested in running your way to better health, focusing on interval training is a definite way to get you there.

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by
Isabel Mayfield is a certified yoga instructor with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is passionate about self-improvement and loves to help people improve their sense of self-worth through education and support in meeting their fitness goals.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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