The book concerns three generations of women affected by the classic novel Mrs.
Among the 40 guests sat coaches, scientists, and former athletes who had been directly or indirectly involved in winning more endurance sport Olympic gold medals and world championships than we could count. One guest, Dag Kaas, had coached 12 individual world champions in four different sports. One without the other is insufficient.
The question is timely: Some recent investigations on untrained or moderately trained subjects have suggested that wk of times weekly intense interval training can induce rapid and substantial metabolic and cardiovascular performance improvements Daussin et al.
Some popular media articles have interpreted these findings to mean that long, steady distance sessions are a waste of time. Whether well founded or not, this interpretation raises reasonable questions about the importance and quantity of high- and low- intensity training The hours michael cunningham essay the overall training process of the endurance athlete.
Our goal with this article is to discuss this issue in a way that integrates research and practice. In view of the recent hype and the explosion in the number of studies investigating interval training in various health, rehabilitation, and performance settings, one could be forgiven for assuming that this training form was some magic training pill scientists had devised comparatively recently.
The reality is that athletes have been using interval training for at least 60 years. So, some discussion of interval training research is in order before we address the broader question of training intensity distribution in competitive endurance athletes.
Nobel Prize winning physiologist AV Hill incorporated intermittent exercise into his studies of exercising humans already in the s Hill et al. The specific term interval training is attributed to German coach Waldemer Gerschler. Influenced by work physiologist Hans Reindell in the late s, he was convinced that alternating periods of hard work and recovery was an effective adaptive stimulus for the heart.
They apparently adopted the term because they both believed that it was the recovery interval that was vital to the training effect.
Since then, the terms intermittent exercise, repetition training, and interval training have all been used to describe a broad range of training prescriptions involving alternating work and rest periods Daniels and Scardina, As Daniels and Scardina concluded 25 years ago, their work laid the foundation for all interval training research to follow.
This quote serves as an appropriate background for defining high intensity aerobic interval training HIT as we will use it in this article: Like most published studies comparing the two types of training, the CT and HIT interventions compared in these studies were matched for total work iso-energetic.
In the context of how athletes actually train and perceive training stress, this situation is artificial, and one we will come back to later.
McDougall and Sale published one of the earliest reviews comparing the effects of continuous and interval training, directed at coaches and athletes.
They concluded that both forms of training were important, but for different reasons. Two physiological assumptions that are now largely disproven influenced their interpretation. First, they concluded that HIT was superior for inducing peripheral changes, because the higher work intensity induced a greater degree of skeletal muscle hypoxia.
We now know that in healthy subjects, increased lactate accumulation in the blood during exercise need not be due to increased muscle hypoxia Gladden, We now know that stroke volume continues to rise at higher intensities, perhaps even to VO2max, in well trained athletes Gledhill et al.
Thus, moderate-intensity continuous exercise over longer durations and therefore more heart beats was deemed most beneficial for enhancing cardiac performance. They observed no differences in the magnitude of the increase in either VO2max or power at lactate threshold among the three groups.
Their findings were corroborated by Bhambini and Singh in a study of similar design published the same year.
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Directly counter to McDougall and Sales conclusions, they found HIT to induce greater changes in VO2max, while CT was more effective in improving peripheral oxidative capacity and the lactate profile.
At the beginning of the s, the available data did not support a consensus regarding the relative efficacy of CT vs HIT in inducing peripheral or central changes related to endurance performance.
Study results continue to be mixed, with some studies showing no differences in peripheral and central adaptations to CT vs HIT Berger et al. When differences are seen, they lean in the direction that continuous work at sub-maximal intensities promotes greater peripheral adaptations and HIT promotes greater central adaptations Helgerud et al.
Controlled studies directly comparing CT and HIT in already well-trained subjects were essentially absent from the literature until recently. However, a few single-group design studies involving endurance athletes did emerge in the s.
In these already well-trained athletes, VO2max was unchanged after 8 wk of training intensification, but a right shift in the blood lactate profile was observed.
InSouth African sport scientists published the results of a single group intervention involving competitive cyclists Lindsay et al.
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They trained regionally competitive cyclists who were specifically selected for study based on the criteria that they had not undertaken any interval training in the months prior to study initiation.
Physiological measurements such as VO2max and lactate profile changes were not reported. Stepto and colleagues then addressed the question of interval-training optimization in a similar sample of non-interval trained, regional cyclists Stepto et al.The Hours Overview.
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