By now, most triathletes have heard of interval training—the concept of splitting your workouts into hard efforts followed by easy efforts, rather than simply exercising at one steady pace the whole time.
Compared to a steady-state effort, an interval-training workout allows you to achieve higher intensities and potentially reap the benefits with improved oxygen consuming capacity, better lactic acid buffering capabilities, greater strength and power, and even a tougher mental approach to training and racing.
Athletes, from the short-course triathlete to the Ironman and beyond, can benefit from incorporating intervals into their training. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the body actually experiences aerobic adaptations to high speed and intense efforts.
This means that even a "long and slow" endurance athlete can use time-efficient interval training to build more oxygen-consuming mitochondria, improve exercise efficiency and economy, increase power and the distance traveled per stride, and have better blood delivery to working tissues.
So how can you work interval training into your running, cycling and swimming workouts? Here are three recommendations:
The solution is simple: use a treadmill. A treadmill will teach you how to pace between fast and slow efforts, since that belt speed simply doesn't lie.
Try this workout:
- Warm up well
- Increase the treadmill speed by 3.0 miles per hour more than your easy running speed, at an incline of 3.0 (which simulates flat ground outdoors)
- Run at this difficult pace for 60 seconds, then
- Decrease the treadmill speed back to your easy pace for 30 seconds
- Continue this 2:1, work:rest ratio for a total of 15 minutes
- Cool down