How much should one speed train, in relation to my total mileage? Some resources (this one for instance) say that the amount of interval training should not exceed 7-15% of your total mileage. My question is: Is this also true for runners with very low mileage?

I'm currently training for a 6.5km (4miles) race. Due to my strength training schedule, I can only go running twice a week. I thought about doing interval training on Sunday and low intensity running on Thursday, but according to the above rule, this would be way to much interval training. Should I really be interval training only once every 4 weeks (which would be 12.5%)?

  • 5
    You shouldn't be interval training at all. Your running base is not enough to support it. You CAN do it, but your risk of injury is higher, and it's not going to do as much for you as you think. Running is a progressive, build activity. One of the better summaries I've seen for it is "Speedwork is icing on the cake, and you don't have a cake yet"
    – JohnP
    Apr 19, 2013 at 15:19
  • I think my running base is not that bad. I haven't been running much within the last months, but before I was running regularly. My PB for 5K is 23:26min (last year). Apr 19, 2013 at 15:28
  • That's great for your PB, but I still stand by my statement. I've been running for years (partially paid for college that way), and was a certified coach as well. I don't consider speedwork for myself or my athletes until they are running 30+ miles per week consistently for 3-6 months depending on the athlete. You can do it, you just raise your injury risk.
    – JohnP
    Apr 19, 2013 at 15:31
  • Ok so I should do only do low intensity running then and would still get faster? What is a solid running base? And why does interval training give me a higher injury risk? I mean what kind of injuries? Apr 19, 2013 at 20:19
  • 2
    I didn't say only low intensity running. I said no speedwork, which I consider to be intervals, hill sprints, things that are very high intensity short burst. They are stressful activities, that if you don't have a base, it's easy to strain/stretch/tear muscles doing them. Strides, pickups, tempo sections are all useful tools that are not as hard on the body and training as intervals are.
    – JohnP
    Apr 20, 2013 at 3:18

2 Answers 2


Why would you want to do any specialized training at this point? If you are progressing with two runs a week, then it seems to me there really is no need to do anything else beside it. Enjoy your runs!

You might want to consider doing one of your weekly runs short and fast(er), and the other long(er) and slow. This way you vary your training during the week, giving your body more stimuli to improve performance.

As others have suggested, interval training comes on top of the bulk of your training, which should be at a leisurely pace, mostly, with some moderate accelerations during those runs. In my opinion you need to do at least three weekly training sessions before even considering anything else than just running a certain distance, roughly at a constant and appropriate speed.

However, there are other approaches (as there always are). For instance, by doing extensive intervals with walk breaks (in the beginning, slow paced running if you're more advanced). However, these all assume you already have a race result, giving you a target running speed between the breaks (which "breaks" are the "intervals" in interval training, BTW). You do these extensive interval training sessions instead of your weekly runs, changing your training method altogether.

There are several possible variants to this approach, but discussing them doesn't really answer your question, I guess. You may want to know about those anyway, so that's why I mention them. If you are interested, look into the run-walk-run method by Jeff Galloway and the Verheul method by Dutch running coaches Klaas Lok and Joost Borm.

I'm sure there are many more similar approaches, and knowing about them is good, even if you don't plan on using them at this point. It puts things into perspective, and more knowledge about your favorite subject is good, never bad.


A 4 mile race is not that long. Also 2 times a week is not very much time spent training for this. I would think that if you are training only twice a week you should shoot for 5-6 miles twice at a decent intensity (80-90%). I don't think you need any speed work unless you hit at least 20 miles a week. I think doing extra miles should be your main goal - make the 4 miles seem easy. Do you think an extra kick in the last 100 meters is going to help your time that much? You have to prioritize on what will be the most effective given your schedule.

  • Note that, with speed training mean VO2max training rather than top speed training (100m). Aug 2, 2013 at 21:01
  • What is your plan for your 2 days? What V02 splits do you plan?
    – Tom
    Aug 3, 2013 at 3:16
  • At the time of posting this question, my plan was to do one interval training session every or every other week, the rest being 'longer' runs (8-10km). Do you have other reasons than those JohnP mentioned in his comments (higher injury risk) for not doing interval training when the volume is low? Aug 3, 2013 at 6:52

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