A descending spiral formed of a clock face

Up the Clock

  • A nice variation on classic interval sessions
  • Perfect for the track

Up-the-clock sessions are a good way of adding a bit of variety to interval sessions. By adjusting rep length and recoveries a whole host of training goals can be achieved.

The Session

An up-the-clock session involves starting with a rep at a certain time or distance, then increasing the time/distance of each successive rep until a maximum is reached.

By adjusting the length of reps and recoveries a variety of goals can be achieved with up-the-clock sessions.

The main benefit of up-the-clock sessions is that they allow the runner to "ease into" a certain pace/intensity without the shock to the system that diving straight into longer reps can bring about.

They also offer the benefit of variety. The simple fact that they are different from traditional interval sessions, where each rep is the same distance or duration, is useful in itself. Variety can help alleviate boredom and it's even been suggested that it can help prevent overtraining.


Down the Clock

If you fancy turning the session on its head, then you could try a down-the-clock session instead.

Real World Examples

A good example of an up-the-clock session to work on speed would be to start with a 10-second rep and work up in 10-second increments to a 30-second rep. Since running fast requires one to be well-rested, recoveries should be long. Perhaps as long as 5-6 times the rep length. So you'd be taking a minute's recovery after the 10-second rep and two minutes after the 20-second rep. A complete session could involve 2-3 sets of these with 3-4 minutes of recovery between each set.

A good VO2 Max session could be to start with a 1-minute rep and work up in increments of 1 minute to a 5-minute rep, taking half the rep time as recovery. So, you'd be taking a 30-second recovery after the first 1-minute rep, a 1-minute recovery after the 2-minute rep and so on. Following a few minutes of recovery the set could be repeated.


Be wary of starting too quickly. Since the first rep is the shortest it can be difficult not to go off too fast. As a general rule you should be keeping a consistent pace for each rep, regardless of length.

Consider the total volume of running you'll be performing when designing an up-the-clock session. When the reps are different lengths it's easy to lose track and end up doing too much or too little. The best approach is to try and equal the overall volume you would complete in a standard interval session.

It's best to vary recovery according to the length of the previous rep. For speedy sessions, when complete - or almost complete - recovery is important, you'll need more time to recover as rep length increases. For VO2 max sessions, you only want partial recovery between reps, so it's important that recovery is not too long after shorter reps or you will not be getting full benefit.


Remember to warm up before your session and cool down afterwards.