Jun 17, 2010

The Five Variables of Interval Training

This post is all about interval training. It was originally titled "Interval Training 101" when I started writing it but then I realized there is so much to interval training that this post can barely do justice -- even if it's 101. I'm not going to explain why one should do this, the physiological adaptations etc,  but in the process of building up my training for Chicago I realized the interval training can really be broken down to a combination of five parameters. If you grew up training with a coach or running on your x-country team then probably you know all of this and more but if you're, like me, who ran most of your life just for fun and never bothered to figure out training techniques then hang on.

Before we get started, I want to get some terminology in place. The two main things in an interval run are "reps" and "intervals". Contrary to the intuition, the "intervals" in interval runs are the periods of rest or slow pace jog between the "reps", which are high intensity sprints.

So, when you're designing your training plan it's obvious how the intervals and reps result in the following five knobs:
1. Distance (or time) of the reps.
2. Distance (or time) of the intervals.
3. Pace of the reps.
4. Pace of the intervals.
5. Number of reps.

These five parameters give rise to countless (mathematically speaking, countably infinite) variations on interval training. However, tradition has been to have the reps in multiples of 100 and since this is usually done on a track, the space of possible interval runs are fairly standard. Also, you could vary the pace of the reps and intervals in the same training run by making it a progression interval. Happy Training!


Duran said...

A very timely post. I've done mild speedwork in the form of tempos and fartleks, but neither very intensive. However, just this week I did an interval workout as well.

Good luck!

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