Interval Training is the name of the game for those of you runners who are looking to set new PRs in upcoming running races! The new Trek Express class on Thursday nights will help you incorporate interval and speed work into your weekly workouts. There are also several treadmill workouts listed on the my Pinterest board that you can do at the gym or at home.
Interval training has been used by athletes for years to build fitness. Interval training combines short, high intensity bursts of speed, with slow, recovery phases, repeated during one exercise session. An early form of interval training, “Fartlek” (a Swedish term meaning ‘speed play’) was casual and unstructured. A runner would simply increase and decrease his pace at will.
How Interval Training Works
Interval training works both the aerobic and the anaerobic system. During the high intensity efforts, the anaerobic system uses the energy stored in the muscles (glycogen) for short bursts of activity. Anaerobic metabolism works without oxygen, but the by-product is lactic acid. As lactic acid builds, the athlete enters oxygen debt, and it is during the recovery phase that the heart and lungs work together to “pay back” this oxygen debt and break down the lactic acid. It is in this phase that the aerobic system is using oxygen to convert stored carbohydrates into energy. It’s thought that by performing high intensity intervals that produce lactic acid during practice, the body adapts and burns lactic acid more efficiently during exercise. This means athletes can exercise at a higher intensity for a longer period of time before fatigue or pain slows them down.
The Benefits of Interval Training
Interval training adheres to the principle of adaptation. Interval training leads to many physiological changes including an increase in cardiovascular efficiency (the ability to deliver oxygen to the working muscles) as well as increased tolerance to the build-up of lactic acid. These changes result in improved performance, greater speed, and endurance. Interval training also helps avoid injuries associated with repetitive overuse, common in endurance athletes. Intervals also allow an athlete to increase training intensity without overtraining or burn-out. Adding intervals to a workout routine is also a great way add cross training to an exercise routine.
No matter what the addition of interval workouts will likely improve your overall fitness. Just be sure to use common sense and start slowly at a level that is commensurate with your current fitness ability and:
Warm Up before starting intervals
Assess current conditioning and set training goals that are within your ability
Keep a steady, but challenging pace throughout the interval
Build the number of repetitions over time
To improve, increase intensity or duration, but not both at the same time
You can also use circuit training as a form of interval training
The information above is adopted from Active.com