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Hurry Up, Slow Down

A Guide to Interval Training

By Greg Major

Greg Major sprinting

Greg Major - Sprinting for home in the Saint Paul Inline Marathon
photo: Darlene Prois

Slow and steady might win the day in a running race. But in an inline marathon, it won't get you much more than a finishers t-shirt.


Because long-distance skate races are roller coaster rides. You coast for a while. Then you sprint furiously to keep up with the latest surge in your paceline.

Interval training is the best way to prepare for this kind of racing. More than other workout, it increases your ability to perform at the upper reaches of your maximum heart rate — which is where you'll be on every surge.

And interval training is not just for racers. Studies have shown that it is one of the most effective ways to build your conditioning and lose weight.

Intervals Explained

Interval training has two basic components: the high-intensity "on" phase and the active-recovery "off" stage.

On a scale of 1 to 10, your effort during the "on" phase should be in the 8-9 range. (At the end of each "on" phase, you should feel like you want to stop.)

During the "off" phase, your effort should be low enough to allow you to recover.

For best results, do your interval workouts two or three times a week, and don't stop skating until your interval workout is over.

Workout No. 1

Here's a good interval workout to start with:

First skate at your "on" pace for one minute. Then skate at your "off" pace for two minutes. Repeat three times. Then rest for five minutes by skating at an easy pace. This workout can be described like this: 1-on, 2-off x 3.

When you are ready for your next interval workout a few days later, add one more repetition. (1-on, 2-off x 4)

Add another repetition each successive workout, until you reach 6 repetitions. (1-on, 2-off x 6)

Workout No. 2

Now it's time to stretch out the "on" phase of your workout. This will condition you for longer attacks. On the first day, do three sets of 2-minutes on, 2-minutes off. Then rest.

Add another repetition to each successive workout until you again reach six repetitions. (2-on, 2-off x 6)

Workout No. 3 (Mixing it up)

In a race, you never know how long the surges are going to last. One might be one minute, the next five.

But you can prepare for this by varying the length of each intereval, like this:

Day 1

  • 1 minute on, 1 minute off,
  • 2 on, 2 off
  • 3 on, 3 off
  • 2 on, 2 off
  • 1 on, 1 off
  • rest: 5 minutes
  • Repeat

Day 2:

  • 1 minute on, 1 minute off
  • 2 on, 2 off
  • 3 on, 3 off
  • 4 on, 4 off
  • 3 on, 3 off
  • 2 on, 2 off
  • 1 on, 1 off

On each subsequent day, add another minute.

Final Points

I've outlined a few very specific set of workouts. But don't sweat the details. Find out what works best for you.

Have a definite plan before you start your workout and try to stick to it. Planning workouts in advance helps keep you focused and working hard.

Build slowly and don't skate like a maniac! Always be in complete control of your skates.

If you feel any sloppiness in your skating or lack of control, it's time to back off on the intervals and do some slow easy skating or work on technique.


greg majorGreg Major is a veteran racer, a certified personal trainer and the president of Bulldog Bootcamp Co. A lifelong athlete, he played semi-pro football in the 1980s and won the Chicagoland Natural Bodybuilding title in 1992. He started skating in the 1980s on a pair of $19 Rollerblade knockoffs. Today, he is a member of Team Rainbo and Tru-Rev's masters racing team. He holds the course record for his age division at the Northshore Inline Marathon (1 hour, 6 minutes and 24 seconds). He and his wife, Michelle, founded Bulldog Bootcamp in 1999.

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