If you're caught up in a routine of training at a single pace every time you go out for a swim, bike or run, you may want to rethink your training strategy, because getting faster over the same distance is possible. Known as speed endurance, potential varies with every individual, but very few of us ever come close to realizing our potential. While training at the same pace at a steady heart rate is great for fitness and developing endurance, it won't help you on your quest for speed. Interval training means alternating short periods of high intensity with fixed periods of rest or active recovery.
Remember: If you keep doing what you're already doing, you'll only get what you've already got. Get out of your comfort zone to reach the next level.
Here are just six of the many benefits of interval training:
1. Speed: The main goal of interval training is to make your race pace feel slow by comparison. Yes, actually slower. Training at speeds quicker than race pace for short bursts will increase your aerobic capacity, eventually improving your ability to race longer and with more intensity.
2. No Equipment: As interval training simply requires speed variation, you only need to modify your existing routine by adding faster bursts. Bear in mind though, that the key factors to improve are intensity, increased heart rate and post-training fatigue.
3. Efficiency: Poor form is much more pronounced if you're swimming, biking or running slowly. Shorter bursts at speed will force your body to learn to adjust to more efficient form. Not only that, but if you only have 30 minutes to squeeze in a workout, you're much better off doing a 10 min warm up and 10 x 10 min intervals with 1 min rest than a 30 min jog. Efficient, and beneficial!
4. Strength: A natural by-product of intense training is increased muscle soreness from a build up of waste products. However, by regularly incorporating alternating periods of high and low intensity, your muscles will adapt to the added demands and become stronger and more resilient. In the long run, this will make you less susceptible to injury.
5. Challenging: The possibilities for workouts alternating pace, speed and time are endless. One of the earliest known types of interval training was "Fartlek" - a Swedish name for 'speed play'. This was relaxed and without much structure, although intervals can be as simple or complex as you (or your coach) devises.
6. Variation: If you're constantly swimming, biking or running at the same speed and only varying distances, chances are you'll be bored. Because of the change in intensity, you will be more mentally alert, and experience an added rush of endorphins!
Remember: The key factor to interval training is intensity. If you're too tired to push the pace, back off and take a recovery day or enjoy an easy workout. Athletes who employ interval training will tell you that they positively enjoy their easy workout days.
Too many athletes make the mistake of doing their easy training at too high intensities, and their 'hard' training at too low intensities; make sure you don't get caught in this rut!
Here are 5 Key Run Interval workouts you might like to try.
Stay tuned for key swim and bike workouts to take full advantage of interval training!
- Coach Medena
For Medena's full bio, click here.