First they will ask you why you do it, then they will as you how you do it.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Planning an interval workout.

Interval training is physically demanding. Like any effective workout, there is planning and preparation that you can do in order to optimise your performance and the benefits you can get from it.

In last week's post I wrote about the various energy systems that get used by the body when working at different intensities. With interval training, you switch clearly between different demands on the body and these various energy systems.

Just to recap, this method of training allows you to work at higher intensities for longer periods than you normally can. Your muscles store enough energy to deliver their full potential for very short periods. The Phosphocreatine system (see last weeks blog) delivers its potential in about ten seconds. It's what gets used for a 100 m sprint, for example, and why that will drain you physically as much as a longer, slower paced run.

When exercised regularly, the body goes through a process known as adaptation. It changes in order to meet the new demands. Chasing the bus once won't change anything. Start running a 100m sprint a few times a week and you'll undergo physiological change to meet that demand. Improved blood supply to muscles and proprioception (your ability to know where all of your body parts are) as well as better recruitment of fast twitch muscle fibres; your body adapts to meet the new challenge.

Training at 100% of your potential is draining, you can't maintain it for long. But it brings many rewards, so interval training allows you to maintain higher intensity for longer periods.

My advice with intervals is to go in with a plan.

This is the bit where the stat fans and geeks among you will get excited. In order to get the most from your interval training you get to adjust the variables of your workout to target the right systems. After a warm up of continuous training, you start going from work period to rest period. The work period pushes your Heart Rate (HR) to the desired target, the rest period allows it to return to a comfortable level and for your body to start recovering and replacing energy. This is repeated for the desired number of repetitions, then a cool down period of light exercise to bring the HR down safely.

You can adjust the following variables:
  • Length of work period,
  • Length of rest period, and
  • Number of repetitions.
Depending on how hard you're working will depend on the desired HR, although this is an outcome of training rather than an adjustment.

Increasing the length of the work period and the number of repetitions will increase the exercise effect, so will reduce the rest period.

Interval training can be done outdoors, running or walking depending on your fitness level or in the gym using any CV equipment.

An example of this would be on a spin bike/exercise bike.

  1. Use a continuous intensity level of exercise to gradually raise you HR to approximately 100-110bpm. This should take about 5 minutes.
  2. Increase intensity, such as cadence or resistance during the first work period to reach the desired HR or intensity level, maintain this effort for the period, 30 seconds in this example.
  3. Drop the intensity, by reducing effort/cadence/resistance to bring the HR back down to 100-110bpm, this period should last 90 seconds.
  4. Repeat 15 times, the aim being to reach the same level of intensity each time.
  5. After 15 reps, reduce intensity to bring HR safely down.

As a result of this workout you will spend 15 sets of 30 seconds (7 and a half minutes) at your maximum intensity, something you probably couldn't do in a single block , but you'll reap all of the benefits of having done so.

Be warned, this is intense and you will feel shattered!

Also, this is just an example of a workout. Depending on your desired outcomes, you will adjust the variables above, but I'll get to that next time.

For now, think of how you can build intervals into your training and how the effects can improve your performance in your sport.

I am writing for a mixed audience and try to pitch this appropriately, but if you have any questions and want more advice, or need anything clarifying please contact me at

As a thank you for reading I can offer anyone who purchases from inknburn a 15% discount on their first order. Use the code dantoldme at the checkout and if you want any advice or suggestions on their products I'm happy to help.

Lastly, I'm passionate about this stuff, so if you have any feedback or advice or contrary views to mine on training please get in touch.

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