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Interval Running for Beginners

By +Carolyn Richardson on May 27, 2012 10:00 AM in Tips & Updates

Lace up those athletic shoes people and run for your life. Danish researchers have found those who jogged a mere hour to two and half hours a week added almost 6 years to their lives versus non-joggers. Here’s how to get your plus six without overdoing it.

Everything in Moderation

If you don’t exercise hard regularly, trying to jog for an hour at one time is excessive. The study found the jogging time for many was spread across two to three sessions over the course of a week. That means a minimum of 20 minutes three times a week to no more than 50 minutes per session twice a week. There’s no need for speed either, with participants from the Copenhagen City Heart Study reporting a slow to average pace. While the USDA recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week in addition to at least two days of strength training, this study shows even shorter bouts of physical activity can carry health benefits.

The Run-Walk or Sprint-Jog Strategy

If you’re new to running, the old run-walk strategy is just as beneficial for most of us than a sustained run. Not only can interval running help improve your cardiovascular fitness, it can also burn more calories than a continuous run. Try running at a high intensity for 30 seconds then resting for 60-90 seconds, then go for it again. Not only will you burn more calories, but you’ll be able to run faster longer.

Here are three strategies to create your own interval run workouts:

Belt it Out

If you’re a beginner, your starts and stops may be predicated solely on keeping your breath under control without stopping. Because the talk test is a great way to help, you can sing yourself into a running routine. You have a repertoire of untapped memories that are great for timing intervals and keeping you upbeat. Nursery rhymes and TV themes are usually thirty seconds to one minute long, easy to repeat, and will help keep you smiling when you want to stop. I prefer Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Barney’s I Love You, or Old MacDonald Had a Farm. The Cheers Theme, Good Times, or I Love Lucy also work. You can also use counting songs like 99 Bottles of Beer. You don’t have to sing them out loud, just having them in your head works. You can share the joke if you’d like.

Press Play

I’m a sucker for a good running song and most pop songs are a great template for an interval run. Most popular songs are about 3 to 4 minutes in length with two to three choruses. About 6 songs will get you through a 20 minute run. Warm-up to a full song with a brisk walk that breaks a good sweat. When the second song’s chorus comes in, take off running at a faster pace, when the verse comes in, slow down. Pick up the pace again for the chorus and try and do the same for the second verse. The ramp or bridge can be a rest or to challenge yourself, try and sprint until the next song comes on. End with a slower song for cool down. My favorite song for a comfortable jog is Same Cooke’s Chain Gang. By the end I’m always huffing and puffing with him. Any rhythmic song that’s upbeat will do of course.

Hit the Track

This is the traditional interval running workout. Run a certain portion of the track, be it a straightaway and a curve, both, or a full lap, then rest for the same amount. As your fitness improves, cut down on rest and pick up the pace. Try and get a mile done running and a mile of brisk walking for a full workout.

Your thoughts...

What are some fun ways to stay motivated to finish a running workout?


Thanks for the tips! I've always been a walker, but sometimes I want to just take off into a run. Your article has definately sparked not only motivation but curiosity about running- how to run with smoothness , without that foot-pounding feeling. I am wondering if the same techniques for breathing and stepping that I use in walking will transfer into running. Thanks for the inspriation to "step it up!"

Thanks for the motivational article.  On my 63 birthday (2 years ago) I started the "Couch to 5K" downloaded on an MP3 player.  I was amazed at how easily I got into it!  Even though I never did a 5K, "Couch to 5K" led me through training for one and I felt so good physically and mentally that I've been thinking of trying it again.  Off to the track!

Due to a broken leg from a 1967 wrong landing in a parachute jump, I'm unable to run.  My right shoe has a 7/8" crepe rubber sole on it.  Because of this, it's too thick to bend properly.

 Instead, I walk on the outdoor track at Vidant Wellness Center, the rehabilitation arm of the local hospital.  Ambling along it is not my pace.  The track is a quarter mile, and I can do two miles in just under 30 minutes.  However, for the past Monday through Saturday, I've only accomplished a mile daily because of being a bit tired.  I'll be glad when I can get back to the two miles.

I thoroughly enjoy walking.  I recommend speed walking to anyone who either doesn't like running or who like me is unable to.

Best of luck!


Rik Barnes                                                                            Greenville, North Carolina                            




I'd love to add 6 years to my life, as long as I don't wind up having to have my knees replaced.

""If you’re new to running, the old run-walk strategy is just as beneficial for most of us than a sustained run.""

It's actually BETTER for you, especially if you're looking to lose weight.  Any kind of interval training burns 9 times more fat than the even keeled cardio most people do.  That's why I recommend HIIT type workouts with the Half Meal Habit.  Eating less and doing interval training plus a lot of water = thinner, healthier, happier YOU.



The walk-run strategy plus listening to upbeat music was how I started running! Great advice for all those that want to build up as a non runner to a runner!

I use an ellipticle because it is easier on my knees I run on it then slow down to about half of what I am running. Does that work the same?

Ran my 1st 5K a few weeks back placing 1st in my age group by training with Insanity and Shakeology.  Insanity involves interval training and Shakeology is a great recovery drink.

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Started run-walking and I luv it! I hate getting sweaty so it's a sacrifice but it's good to know I can do this 3 times a week and still get the benefits! I live in the city with NO car so I walk about 3 to 5 miles a day easily. 8 to 10 miles when I put my mind to it and have nothing to do all day. I can do interval runs of .5 to 1 mile now. I'd like to increase to 4 miles of straight running. I still have quite a bit of weight to get off so I am comfortable doing this. Good luck to all! :)

I love to run /walk ... I have done three London Marathons using this principle .. However, when training each time,  I did tell myself I would train to be able to  run most of it and managed to actually get up to 13 miles of non stop running on one training session, but have never managed to repeat this non stop running mileage for some reason !! 

But Running and Walking certainly works for me!!

I'm doing the 26 mile Shine Walk for Cancer Research in September but find I still  want to RUN  some of the sections during my training sessions ... !!!

(I too use music ... I wouldn't feel motivated to run a few yards without it)!

Either way, walking or running,  it's great to get out in the fresh air !!


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