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Interval Training: What is It and How Do You Do It?

Stew Smith, CSCS

Last week, I received an email asking if interval training was a good way to improve speed in your military PFT run. The answer is absolutely. “But what exactly is interval training and how do I determine what speed I should train?” the question continued.

There are some general formulas that can help you determine where you should be, but I personally like to use the following method of determining interval workout components that include: Distance, Run and Rest Interval, Repetitions, and Time. Each of these components of Interval training effect the other as noted below.

I do not use a general calculating formula but a more specific running approach, since we all are different types of runners. For example, a runner runs the USMC 3 mile in a 21:00 – that is a 7:00 mile pace. To get a perfect score on the USMC run, one has to run an 18:00 time – that is a 6:00 mile pace. How do you get to be a better runner so you can drop three minutes off your run time?

Follow the steps outlined below and you will have a an idea of how to integrate interval training into your regime:

1) Time yourself in your PFT run. Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force and many law enforcement agencies use the 1.5 mile distance. Army uses the 2 mile distance. Marines use the 3 mile distance.

2) Determine a reasonable goal for your PFT run.

3) Find your GOAL time for the PFT run. Divide your goal to figure out the mile pace

4) Divide your mile goal pace into 1/8 miles, 1/4 miles, 1/2 miles distances

The following distances are great for any of the military PFT run interval training and the times listed below will help our sample runner decrease his run time to a 6:00 mile.

For instance the USMC runner should train at:

1 mile times should be run in 6:00

1/2 mile times should be run in 3:00

1/4 mile times should be run 90 seconds, and

1/8 mile times should be run 45 seconds

It is recommended to either walk or slowly jog as a recovery method in between the timed runs above. The interval of rest depends on your fitness level. Walk to rest if you are a beginner or average runner and jog to catch your breath if you are more advanced. Usually the walking distance is equal to or ½ the distance you just ran. So, if you ran a 3:00 ½ mile, walk or slow jog a ¼ mile. NOW you know your pace at each distance…time for the workout!

Putting all the components of interval training together creates a challenging workout that will help you decrease your PFT run time:

Repeat 3-4 times

Run ½ mile at goal pace

Walk or jog ¼ mile

Repeat 4-6 times

Run ¼ mile at goal pace

Walk or jog 1/8 of a mile

Repeat 4-6 times

Run 1/8 mile at goal pace

Walk or jog 100 yds

Do this workout two times a week combined with two longer runs of three to five miles during the week. In a few weeks, you will see your running pace increase and your mile times start dropping and easier to maintain. Here are a few more tips to help you pick up your pace and stay injury free:

1) Breathing – Take big, deep inhalations and exhalations similar to the way you yawn. This will help you receive the oxygen your body needs. Slow down the running pace if you need to, but concentrate on your breathing.

2) Stride and Heel / Toe Contact – Open your stride to a point where you will land on your heel and roll across your foot, pushing off the ground with your toes. You can eliminate this by following the simple Audio Test. If you can hear your feet hitting the ground when you run, then you are running wrong. It should sound like your shoes are rolling on the ground quietly. Comfortable running shoes will also aid in prevention of injuries.

3) Arm Swing – You should have a relaxed arm swing but very pronounced. Swing your hands from about chest high to just past your hips in a straight line. The term “hip to lip” is a good way to remember this when you are running. Your arms should be slightly bent but not flexed.

4) Relaxed Upper body – You should relax your fists, arms, shoulders, and face. This causes the oxygenated blood that you need to go to your legs to also go to your upper body. The only things that need to be working when you are running are your “Lungs and your Legs.”

5) Start slowly and warm up – Do not stretch your legs until you have warmed up your body by jogging or biking slowly for about 5-10 minutes. Run every other day if you are just beginning and only add mileage to your run as you feel comfortable.

Good luck with your running program and I hope you see improvement soon. These workouts and others can be easily obtained at the PoliceLink Fitness Store. Send me an email and I may post it up as an article next week. You can contact me at

  • My_lapd_badge_max50


    almost 8 years ago


    PT EVERYDAY before work, a straight up ass kicking, parolee style workout! Go to, get the 50lb short and do at least 45 minutes with the vest on, start light, then build up to 50lbs 3 x a week. You don’t have to do a killer pace with the vest on, but after a week of runing with it on, your duty gear will feel very light! I also mix it up on different days with 8 reps of 1/4 mile sprints followed by pyramids of 20-5 pull-ups, Max out on push-ups, militaries and 50 crunches! The reason I am putting this up isn’t to say “I’m bitchen”, but you have got to have a reality based fitness plan and stick to it! I sit on the bench and simulate sitting in my car then the sprint is the foot pursuit, followed by the wall/fence (pull-ups), then the fight is on. Save a little for the real deal 3 minutes after roll call though! If you don’t think these parolee’s have a fitness plan, or that they are not training to disarm and KILL you, then you are living in denial, and need to get your mind right ASAP, that means extract your head from your A$$ first. You need to train, train, train and train some more. I have had a couple of Officers and above ask me while I’m working out “what are you training for” A fight, wrestling, MMA, a race or some competition?” I tell them I’m training for 3 minutes after roll call, and you should be too! I work down in south central Los Angeles and the fight is on every day. I would feel like a complete tool if I was not there for my partner. I’m 37 and it takes a bit more now a days to keep fit, but dealing with the animals we are dealing with down here, it’s a must! If you don’t have a training plan just start your watch everyday with an apology to your fellow Officers for not being prepared for when the fit hits the shan! Don’t be that guy! Your parner gets killed or injured because you don’t have the wind, you’ll never forgive yourself. Also everyone who caries a gun needs to go to one of Lt. Col Dave Grossman’s seminars! Go to the website and check out The Bullet Proof Mind, the audio is only $60.00, but is the BEST training you will recieve for our profession! Remember it’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6! Stay Safe Warriors! Ed O’Shea

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