The benefits of intervals, even for young runners, are clear: Increase VO2max. Improve strength and form. Gain mental fitness. I wrote about intervals for kids and how to make it fun here. During the the dog days of summer, it becomes more of a challenge to run intervals on the track with your kids. If you continue reading, I will describe a twist on intervals – a class of workouts called “interval pyramids” – which keep intervals fresh and fun for kids. Even in the hot, humid summer.
What are interval pyramids? Running an interval pyramid means you run progressively longer intervals (going up the pyramid) followed by progressively shorter ones (coming down the pyramid). For example, you could start out ramping up with 200m, 400m, 800m, 1,600m (metric mile) and then ramping down with 1,600m, 800m, 400m, 200m. The physiological benefit going up the pyramid is that you run longer distances as you become tired, and the mental benefit coming down the pyramid is that you get a break as the intervals are shorter. What keeps interval pyramids fresh and fun, especially for kids, is that they are not running “boring” repetitions of the same interval length, and that they can be configured many different ways based on goals, environmental conditions, kid’s motivation/attitude on a given day. For example, you can shorten the distances and start off with 100m and peak at 800m and then end with 100m.
A few things to keep in mind. You can achieve the same volume (total distance) with interval pyramids as with a set of equal intervals, so running 400, 800, 1,200, 1,600, 1,200, 800, 400 would add up to 4 miles, which would be about the same as 8×800 or 4×1,600 (both add up to 4 miles). You should run the intervals at the same pace, so if you are training for a 5K road race, run all intervals at your target 5K time (I tell my kids that they will miss the workout goal if they run a 400 to set a PR and then struggle to complete the 1,600 at the target pace). And the intervals are best run on a track, which should make it easier and simpler to measure and pace each interval.
My 9 and 14 year old boys have planned a pyramid intervals workout tomorrow.