Interval Training. A term most people may have heard of, but is sometimes misunderstood.
Today I want to talk about the evolutions of interval training and the whys behind it.
As a Running Coach, and Online Running Coach, I have been prescribing interval training every day since 2007 and been completing interval training sessions for years before that.
When you drill down on it, RUNNEZ sessions are 45 minute interval training sessions for any level of athlete, that can be done running, riding, rowing or walking. But the basic physiology and methodology in every RUNNEZ session is to help the athletes completing them progress and run faster and more economically from 1500m to the Half Marathon, then if on they are on right plan that will parlay over to the Marathon, Ultra Marathons and field based sports.
What is it and Why Interval Training? How does it help me?
I'm a big believer in humans of all fitness levels, ages, backgrounds and sporting ambitions, completing some form of interval training 1-2 times a week. Note that frequency mentioned for later in the blog.
Interval training is simply a bout of effort usually at an intensity of note followed by a recovery interval, that interval may be a static recovery or slow walk, jog (active recovery ) Type and length of recovery all depend on the purpose of the session and speed and intensity of the effort segment.
It is all relative to the individual of course, an interval session may be 12 minutes of 30 second brisk walk, 60 second very easy walk or even 30 second brisk walk 30 second static recovery. This session will illicit a brilliant stimulus for someone who has only recently recommenced exercise after a 30 year sedentary period for example.
And some one chasing a 3 hour marathon may complete a session similar to 10x1km efforts @ 90% effort with 1 min recoveries .
It is all relative to the individual.
Quite simply the major reason for interval training is to accrue more time at specific training zones, and paces then you would be able to muster in a standard continuous run. Interval Training is crucial for increasing Lactate Threshold, Vo2 MAX, Running Economy and Fatigue Resistance, These are the MAJOR variables to improving all modalities of endurance sport, as well as Mental Toughness, which technically is also honed and trained very well with interval training.
It is a beautiful thing, and I have made it my craft day in day out, hence my passion I KNOW it works !!!
Interval Training done intelligently and with adequate easy days/strength/mobility days will continue to get and keep you in the best physical and mental shape of your life.
There is evidence of interval training dating back to the early 1800s. But more scientific interval training evidence can be found in the form of Finnish coach Lauri Pikhala in around 1910. This training can be seen in the two greatest distance runners of their time, Paavo Nurmi and Hannes Kolehmainen.
In the 1930s Gosta Holmer introduced Fartlek to the world, Swedish for "Speed Play" A model most distance coaches, myself included still use very often today.
Fartlek consists of running at different paces throughout the workout so instead of recovering post a hard bout of running you will complete a floating jog before you surge again. A fartlek block could last anywhere from 6 minutes to 60 minutes and beyond depending on many things, goal of the session being a major one.
Around about this same time German coach Woldemar Gerschler came up with an interval training method based on heart rates to monitor effort.
It was quite ground-breaking work, and involved 90 second recoveries waiting for the athletes heart rate to drop to around 120BPM.
Emil Zatopek one of the sports true immortals was famous for his interval training but there is a catch and it is really important.
Zatopek won 4 Olympic Gold Medals, including the phenomenal and never repeated 5000m,10000m and marathon treble in Helsinki in 1952!
Zatopek did the majority of his training on the track and would often do sets of 40x400m and similar workouts. But the catch was he understood even then that to retain quality and be able to produce the volume he needed he had to mix up the paces of the sets and certainly listened to his body as to how he felt each day, combine this intelligence to not run hard all the time with mental fortitude and it's not hard to see why he was such a huge success.
All of the world's leading coaches starting using interval training from that period and from there it became a staple in any endurance program. Franz Stampfl was a big proponent from the early 1950s onwards , he mentored Rodger Bannister, who famously was the first man under 4 min in the mile. He also coached Aussie Ralph Doubell to Gold in the 800m @ the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.
Legendary coaches Arthur Lydiard, Bill Bowerman, Harry Wilson and Peter Coe all used Interval Training with their athletes, even though their programs may have looked different there was always a form of interval work some where in there.
The Africans have used it beautifully over the last 30 years, and in my opinion have almost the perfect recipe, which has clearly shown in their success.
Eliud Kipchoge's coach Patrick Sang has done wonders with so many distance runners and is a big proponent of interval training.
So as mentioned earlier, in this day and age we all know that Interval Training is crucial to endurance performance, but again what session is the "perfect session" and how often should I run hard interval workouts?
There is NO perfect session, and the key is always about consistency and continuity in your training. As far as frequency, in a perfect world 2 x interval type sessions ( aerobic power, speed endurance, fartlek or hill repeats ) a week is optimal with for the elite runner a possibility of some race specific segments in their long run included in specific periods leading up to a goal race.
Every other run or workout for the week will be done at easier training paces and zones to allow the body to adapt to the high intensity interval workouts whilst still deriving the aerobic and neuromuscular benefits of jogging or running easy.
So if an elite runner completes 10-12 runs a week only 2-3 at the most will be interval type sessions. So if you are running for weight loss and looking to improve your pace a little, 2 x interval type training sessions a week is perfect, then maybe an easy jog and a longer easier run is a great start.
As far as the session goes, always listen to your body. Have a set plan in place, yes, but if you can't hold certain speeds that particular day don't be hard on yourself. There could be many external things at play. Get the session done at a slower intensity but the continuity of getting that session done and recovering well, will ensure you will continue to improve.
Our Runnez system works on a scale of exertion scale and works very well for all levels of athlete, and it enables the athlete to run well all year round.
Always remember this, you will get a heap out a workout even if your efforts are @75% intensity, the key is to keep banking the sessions, not running hard two days in a row, recovering well, absorbing the interval training and most importantly LOVING the process!
Continue to move with gratitude legends.