Intervals Shouldn’t Be Lonely

On July 4th three years ago, I wheezed with my hands clasped to my knees on the edge of an asphalt path next to a lake. It was just past noon, I was shirtless, red, sweaty, and alone.

I was training for a marathon. This was the hardest workout on the schedule thus far, an interval doozy that had me struggling through 10 400s at 5K pace. My legs felt rigid, at least a beat behind where they should have been, and my head felt foggy. I wasn’t injured and I didn’t feel sick. I was just alone. No one cared when I hopped off the path after three repeats and went back inside to take a shower. Intervals were my least favourite workout. I started ducking out early.

Call me crazy, but after three years, intervals are now my favourite part of training. What’s changed in my life since then? Well, besides ditching a questionable haircut and an unfortunate aversion to avocados, I’ve started running repeats with company.

Every Wednesday at noon, a dozen Runner’s WorldMen’s Health, and other Rodale staffers meet on a trail next to our office to run intervals. We run at different paces, and sometimes different workouts, but we’re all there to suffer together.

Whether it’s an outside shoulder to pace off or an encouraging yell on the backstretch, I’ve learned that intervals are way better with other people. It’s hard to hear the inner monologue imploring you to quit over multiple pairs of shoes striking the ground next to you.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s peace in the solitary long run. But intervals are not supposed to be peaceful. They’re meant to hurt. And when you can share that hurt with other people, the whole experience becomes less painful and sometimes – around a curve while your legs turnover, matching others’ stride – even enjoyable.

I have the luxury of working in an office full of people training for fall races, which means every Wednesday I can count on at least a few people ready to run a workout with me. You may not, but my biggest advice for those tough midweek sessions is to find some company. That could be a training partner, or just your kids waiting near the finish line at the local track. If you’re lonely during intervals now, you’ll be surprised how much another person can provide a boost.

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