10 ways interval training is like labor

I’ve already told you that several members of our family recently took up jogging; I posted about it here and here.  The way that the Couch to 5K program is set up is called interval training. Interval training is a structured series of workouts that alternates lighter exercise with more strenuous sessions in gradually increasing increments.   It is designed to be quite challenging and provides relatively fast improvement.

It’s also very hard. For the first 6 weeks of the program – the time during which we alternated walks and jogs because we weren’t yet able to jog for extended periods – I couldn’t help but feel that there was a strong parallel between interval training and labor pains.

Here are some of the ways that came to mind while I was working out:

  1. Every time we’re ready to go for a run, I can’t wait to start.  Once we start, I find myself wondering: “WHAT WAS I THINKING?  THIS ISN’T FUN!”
  2. It’s all about the breathing.
  3. The breathing often sounds the same, too.
  4. The intervals are like contractions, and you find yourself counting down with dread to the next intense interval.
  5. Psychological signposts are strikingly similar – Stage 1: Hooray!  We’ve started!  Stage 2: Wait…this is hard.  Not fun anymore.  Stage 3: I CAN’T DO IT!”
  6. The coaching sounds the same: “You can do this…just a little longer…You’re doing great!”
  7. It generally gets easier with practice, but…
  8. …sometimes it’s much harder than you expect.
  9. Sometimes you know why it’s harder, and other times there seems to be no rhyme or reason.
  10. It feels so good when it’s over.

Is this analogy just not working for you?  I also think there is a striking similarity between childbirth and death.  Which analogy makes more sense to you?


  1. ack! I should have reread my comment! Of course I meant “unashamedly” not unashamededly. Ooopsie!

  2. I don’t know. I think I’d rather run a marathon than give birth unmedicated. I’ve only had one baby and I happily and unashamededly took the epidural. I’m running a marathon in January and even though the training can be rough, I’d still rather do that than go au naturale.
    The running can be really tough, but the the fire in your legs and feet no where compares to the fire in your loins during childbirth.

    Good luck with your family’s running endeavors. Keeping running; it gets much easier with time.

  3. Kim I just wanted to give you and your family a cheer for taking up running. I have been a life long runner, took it up when I was in 5th grade. I never understood when someone said running was hard – for me it was a way to control my stress and ADHD. Running made me feel great and I enjoyed running many half marathons. Then I got pregnant and took up running again 6 weeks after giving birth. Oh my gosh! I now understand your point of view. I tip my hat to you and your family!

    And to those posters that encourage working out while pregnant, I second and third (but use a heart monitor). Although I ended up needing an epidural, I was so thankful to be in great physical shape so I could spend 17 hours working the baby into the right position to avoid a c-section.

  4. I so totally agree! I always enjoyed excersize, even strenuous excersize once I got in pretty good shape. So, when I became pregnant the 1st time I excersized, and huffed and puffed (within reason), the whole pregnancy. When labor started it was strangely familiar once my contractions became regular: I just began focusing on the goal!, just like when I workout…to get to the end, rewarded with strength, more stamina, and endorphins, plus this time a BABY! I was a personal trainer and step aerobics teacher when I got pregnant the second time around. I didn’t even realize I was in labor for the 1st 3 hours. It was a 45 minute drive to the hospital…when I arrived the nurse was very rude, telling me to lie flat so she could put the monitor on. I begged to sit up, she finally relented and then she checked me, I was already 8 cms. Needless to say she was kinder after she discovered I was already in hard labor. My baby was born just 30 minutes after arriving at the hospital. We would have gotten there sooner ,but hubbie was stopped by the highway patrolman…..who didn’t believe I was in labor! After I shot him a few explicatives, forgive me Lord, he apologized and gave us escort to the hospital! So, in hindsite, yes labor is very much like a hard workout! ( A side note, I do not recommend very strenuous excersize during pregnancy as the body is compromised in balance which can result in falls, ligaments and tendons become stretchier which can result in sprains and tears, the adrenals also can be adversely affected as they will pick up the tab for too much stress on the body, plus your body is already working hard to grow another human for goodness sake!)

  5. I’ve been involved in athletics my entire life and my best analogy for labor was that it’s a very challenging athletic event- sort of like running a marathon. Which is also, in my opinion, why lots of women “give up” and opt for the various assisted kinds of birth. I mean, who wants to run a marathon? Why put your body through that? 😉

  6. Makes perfect sense to me, especially since I do not enjoy exercising (though I do force myself to on occasion).

  7. Both analogies are really good. Gosh labour is so so hard.

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