‘I would love to run a marathon but do not have the time to train for it’
If you share this misconception, that competing in endurance based events requires endless hours of mind-numbingly boring cardio you are wrong and I have a soloution!
The research shows that training time required is considerably less than traditionally thought necessary for aerobic adaptations to occur. Sport scientists have found that reducing your training volume by engaging in speed-interval training will not only catylyse the necessary aerobic adaptations, but lead to more pronounced adaptations than that of traditonal endurance training.
Interval training is a form of physical training that involves bursts of high-intensity work interspersed with periods of low intensity work. The high intensity periods are typically at or close to maximal anaerobic capacity (>80% VO2 max), while the recovery periods may involve either complete rest or activity of low intensity.
Gunnarsson & Bangsbo (2012) looked at the effect of an alteration from regular endurance to interval training on the health profile, muscular adaptations, VO2 max & running performance. Moderately trained individuals were divided into either a high intensity training group (10-20-30) or a control group (normal cardio training). The high intensity training protocol replaced normal endurance training with 10-20-30 training consisting of low, moderate & high speed running (<30%, <60% & >90% of maximum intensity) for 30, 20 & 10 seconds respectively, in 3-4 five minute intervals interspersed by 2 minutes of recovery.
After the intervention period VO2 max in the 10-20-30 group was 4% higher & performance in a 1500m & 5k run significantly improved. Systolic blood pressure (SBP) was reduced along with total and LDL cholesterol. No alterations were observed in the control group. This study shows that interval training can improve performance & VO2 max despite a 50% reduction in training volume. In addition, the 10-20-30 training regieme lowers SBP and blood cholesterol, suggesting a beneficial effect on the health profile of already trained individuals.
Studies done by Burgomaster et al (2005) & Gibala et al (2006) also show the benefits of speed interval training (SIT) over endurance training (ET). Both studies showed enhanced adaptations in muscle oxidative properties and an increased time to exhaustion in the SIT group, compared with the ET group.
Emil Zatopek was a 5km, 10km and marathon Olympic champion in 1952. Emil was ahead of the field and the science:
“When I was young, I was too slow…. so I thought, I must learn to run . So I ran one hundred metres very fast…. People said, “Emil,
you’re crazy. You are practising to be a sprinter. You have no chance.” … so I said, “Yes, but if I run one hundred metres twenty times, that is two kilometres and that is no longer a sprint”.
This was what Emil’s daily training looked liked in 1947:
’5x150m with 150m jogs between
20x400m with 150m jogs between
5x150m with 150m jogs between
400m intervals run in 67-77 seconds (VO2 max pace)
150m run very fast’
The science shows that the time required to train for endurance events is not as long as traditionally thought. Interval training is a great way to achieve the aerobic adaptations necesary for endurance performance, whilst reducing training volume. Interval training has also been shown to have superior health benefits when compared with cardio. Be warned though – interval training is tough and invovles working at a high intensity. For this reason, I would not advise untrained individuals to start with interval training, instead build up your aerobic base, with low intensity cardio exercise and after a sufficient amount of time introduce interval training to your workouts.
Many thanks for reading!
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