Chances are if you've ever been wandering through your local sports shop, browsing the latest bonded-seam bun-hugging compression shorts, you've overheard a couple endurance enthusiasts whispering conspiratorially about intervals. Perhaps it was their last session together, when they pushed to complete exhaustion in a 6x4min L4 workout up Mad Turtle Hill or some other notorious local proving ground. Point being, intervals are forefront on the mind of aspiring and experienced endurance athletes alike. But does the substance live up to the hype?
|Your typical endurance athlete|
"To find the origins of the special form of repetition training known as Interval Training we must go back in history, over 70 years to the late 1930s. At that time a German coach, Dr. Woldemar Gerschler...carried out experiments in the form of repetition training where an athlete would run over a relatively short distance, such as 200m, at a relatively fast pace, a number of times. The name of the system, 'Interval Training', was because the rest or recovery period between the faster runs was considered the most important and vital part of the training. It is during the interval that the heart adapts, growing larger and stronger. " (Thompson, http://www.newintervaltraining.com/old-interval-training.php)
And even earlier, we can turn to the Swedes, who invented "fartlek" ("speed play") training, which involves a more liberated approach to intensity, allowing the athlete to modulate the speed and effort during on-times, and also adjusting them to fit terrain, especially in locales lacking a track facility with measured distances.
|Gosta Holmer, innovator of "fartleks"|
|While nothing feels quite as satisfying as finishing a hard workout, it must be couched upon a firm aerobic foundation|
All of the above is meant purely to emphasize the role of intervals in a comprehensive training protocol. Intervals are not the sole means of producing endurance success. They may be more sexy than a boring two hour run at 120bpm, and pro athletes tend to get their visibility during their hard training sessions than the slow ones, but that should not justify a diet of intensity alone. Think of it as the frosting on the cake - if there's no cake, you can frost the cake plate, but even a child could then recognize that there ain't much substance.
Stay tuned to Methow Endurance for more detailed background and explanation on structuring intervals into your training plan. They are irreplaceable, but they cannot stand alone.