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In winter, don't detrain--get indoors.

Running coaches advise adding interval training to your regimen only after an initial period of baseline fitness. Recall the four mesocycles to the training year: the four-month Foundation period (baseline fitness building), the three-month Preparation period (increased aerobic conditioning), the three-month Specialization period (competition phase), and the two-month Transition period (off-season recovery). One interval workout was introduced on the sample training schedule in the last issue, when we examined the Preparation period.

As we move into the middle of the three-month Preparation period, it becomes the perfect time to talk in greater detail about interval training. While the Specialization period represents the period of highest fitness, it is less advisable as an interval-heavy period because racing, in effect, takes the place of and VO2max-enhancing workouts in the cold and dreary off-season holiday months, the time is right for indoor track workouts that can take away the winter doldrums, add new purpose and life to your training, and leave you in perfect shape for racing in the spring.

Optimizing VO2max is the main goal of interval training. The more time a runner spends during his or her interval workout at VO2max, then, the more effective the training session. This is achieved physiologically by understanding a few basic principals. Legendary running coach and FitNews editorial board advisor Jack Daniels, PhD, defines correct interval-training intensity as the speed the runner can keep up for 10 to 15 minutes in a race situation.

There are a few rules to adhere to for effective interval training. Daniels is adamant that individual workbouts during an interval session should not exceed five minutes in length. After five minutes, an accumulation of blood lactate will likely cause the runner to cut the workout short or run the later part of the workout too slowly. If, therefore, at proper interval pace it would take you longer than five minutes to complete one mile, you must never run single workbouts as long as 1600 meters.

Many runners think that the shorter the interval workout (Daniels recommends 30 seconds as the low end of workbout duration), the faster it ought to be run. This is not the case. In order to maximize time spent at VO2max, you should manipulate the recovery length in between workbouts. This leads us to Daniels' other rule: Always Keep recovery jogs shorter in time than (or at most, equal to) the time length of the preceding workbout. It is unusual to set recovery times at half; for example, 80-second 400s followed by 40-second recoveries.

When running at proper interval pace, it will take your body approximately two minutes to reach and begin operating at VO2max. This is why shorter intervals demand shorter recoveries. You won't reach maximal oxygen consumption in your initial 1-minute interval, say, but the short (30-second) recovery allows your body to reach VO2max more quickly in subsequent 1-minute workbouts. The deficit accumulates as the overall interval session commences, until you are spending a great deal of time at VO2max.

Remember, running faster than V02max-pace does not involve a greater aerobic commitment than simply sticking to interval pace. You will merely begin to utilize the anaerobic energy system, which is not the goal of interval training. Excess speed will only impede your ability to perform a subsequent quality interval workout on a future day you have planned. Save your speed for repetition workouts.

Finally, Daniels does not think interval mileage (not counting recovery jogs) should exceed 8 percent of your weekly mileage. This may seem low, but, again, interval training is among the most demanding training you will do, and in order to perform it at maximum effectiveness week after week, 8 percent is the magic number, not to exceed 10K per week (regardless of how high your mileage).

With all of this in mind, here are a few interval workouts you can try on your local indoor track this winter, to get you road-ready for spring racing.

The workouts are presented in terms of times rather than distances, because this is the most effective way to discuss intervals while remaining aware of proper effort. Many coaches think the optimal amount of time per workbout at interval pace is three to five minutes; depending on your fitness, this may or may not equate with 1000 or 1200 meters, or one mile, etc. Regardless of your pace, Interval Workout 1, below, would last a total of 36 minutes, with 24:00 at interval pace and 12:00 at recovery pace. Knowing, say, that your interval pace is 6:00/mile or: 90/400 meters, you will be able to then make a separate determination as to whether Interval Workout 1 is appropriate for you.

Determine whether the percentage of your total weekly mileage is within the 8 percent cut-off, and adjust the number of workbouts accordingly. (Also note that running 90-second 400s precludes you from ever running 1600-meter interval bouts, due to the five-minute maximum rule.)

INTERVAL WORKOUT 1 (24:00 at i pace)

6 x 2:00 minutes at interval pace 1:00 recovery pace in between

8 x l:00 i

:30 r in between

8 x: 30 i

: 15 r in between

INTERVAL WORKOUT 2 (18:00 at i pace)

4 x 2:00 i

1:00 r in between

6 x 1:00 i

:30 r in between

8 x: 30 i

:30 r in between

INTERVAL WORKOUT 3 (18:00 at i pace)

6 x 3:00 i

1:00 r in between

INTERVAL WORKOUT 4 (20:00 at i pace)

4 x 5:00 i

5:00 r in between

INTERVAL WORKOUT 5 (20:00 at i pace)

4 x 3:00 i

2:00 r in between

2 x 4:00 i

3:00 r in between

Daniels' Running Formula by Jack Daniels, PhD, 1998, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, pp. 104-112, 240, 252
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Publication:Running & FitNews
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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