Why Not Enhance Your Exercise Program with Interval Training?

Do you ever have the feeling that you are training without seeing any real improvement? Maybe it’s time to mix things up a little. In order to reach your optimal performance, your body needs to develop new aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic (without oxygen) systems. So, it isn’t all about how fast and how far you run each day, it’s more about creating an intricate mixture of both. Interval training is a measure that will allow you to enhance your performance, increase speed, and build endurance.

Hitting the Wall

When you exercise at an intense level, your body utilizes glucose to release energy. This process can also produce lactic acid. With normal conditions, lactic acid is carried to the liver and removed out of the body. However, if this process continues, the lactic acid can build up in your bloodstream, making it impossible for you to train. This process is the lactate threshold or anaerobic threshold (the infamous ‘hitting the wall’). Hitting the wall or ‘the bonk’ is the condition where there is depletion of glycogen stores. The symptoms of this condition include sudden fatigue and loss of energy. To avoid hitting the wall, ensure that your glycogen levels are optimal at the beginning of your exercise by eating or drinking carbohydrate-rich substances.

Interval Training Sessions

Interval training allows you to train both aerobically and anaerobically, increasing and decreasing the strength of your workout between. The purpose of interval training is to push your body past your aerobic threshold for a short length of time, then allow it to return back to its aerobic conditioning level. This method improves your speed, strength, and endurance, burns more calories, and helps your heart. In order to prevent hitting of the wall, you need to do interval training sessions. This technique increases your running performance and helps prevent injury from repetitive training. Interval training involves a series of high intensity burst of speed contrasted with slower recover phases.

These high intensity sessions provoke the anaerobic system, leading to lactic acid build-up and a decrease in the ‘oxygen debt’. During the recovery phases, your body restores oxygen in order to break down the lactic acid and convert stored carbohydrates to energy. To effectively burn lactic acid, you should alternate between anaerobic and aerobic systems.

An Example of Interval Training

Run 1 km at race speed followed by a two minute recovery jog. Repeat this as many times as you can during your run. Beginners should start with four 1 km reps and advanced runners can aim for ten or more. Aim for consistent times during each of these reps, as this will help you regulate your speed.

Types of Interval Training

Traditional interval training is known for its consistency and structure. Another kind of interval training is Fartlek training (Swedish for ‘speed play’). This type consists of a series of high intensity bursts of speed within a long distance. These high intensity phases do not have to the same distance; they can be measured by conveniently positioned poles and trees. You should run at different paces during each phase and actively recover in between each phase. To add this technique to your training, do 15 sprints of varying distances in your next 30 minute run. After each sprain, follow up with a jog recover phase. Another type of interval training involves raising and lowering the heart rate. This method uses short, high intensity sprints of 5 to 10 seconds followed by short intervals of walking or jogging.

Example Sessions

  • 1 km Intervals – Beginner

Warm up – 10 to 15 minutes run at an easy pace

4 x 1 km reps (race pace) with 2 minute easy jog recovery

Cool Down – 10 to 15 minutes run at an easy pace and stretching

  • 1 km Intervals – Advanced

Warm up – 10 to 15 minutes run at an easy pace

8 x 1 km reps (race pace) with 2 minute easy jog recovery

Cool Down – 10 to 15 minutes run at an easy pace and stretching

  • 400m Intervals – Beginner

Warm up – 10 to 15 minutes run at an easy pace

6 x 400 m reps (race pace) with 1 minute easy jog recovery

Cool Down – 10 to 15 minutes run at an easy pace and stretching

  • 400m Intervals – Advanced

Warm up – 10 to 15 minutes run at an easy pace

12 x 400 m reps (race pace) with 1 minute easy jog recovery

Cool Down – 10 to 15 minutes run at an easy pace and stretching

References

  • Jones, K. (2011). For the runners: Three types of interval training.
  • MedicineNet.com (2012). Interval training.

Last Reviewed 13/Mar/2014

 

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Whilst wielding a couple of dumbbells in a gym class in 2003, Kate experienced an epiphany around the lack of accepted best practice guidelines when it came to staying well and avoiding disease. Kate realized that she had no chance of slowing her own aging process unless she became better educated about her options.
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