Intervals, Thresholds, and Long Slow Distance: the Role of Intensity and Duration in Endurance Training
This week's strength and conditioning article comes out of the sports research site: Sports Science. This article discusses the research on endurance athletes training from the last thirty years and investigates the findings.
Elite endurance athletes training prescriptions can be a complicated task. There are many schools of thought on what the "best" combination of training variables are to induce optimal performance. What was unique about this article was they specifically looked at the role of HIIT in an endurance training program.
Below are the overall conclusions of the plethora of research that was analyzed in this study. I encourage you to read the article in its entirety (with a pot of coffee brewing- 22 pages!!) so that you can review some of the history of endurance running research, as well as the training percentages and units discussed. The information is sound and will make you question the importance of HIIT training in an endurance athletes training program.
- There is reasonable evidence that an ~80:20 ratio of low to high intensity training (HIT) gives excellent long-term results among endurance athletes training daily.
- Low intensity (typically below 2 mM blood lactate), longer duration training is effective in stimulating physiological adaptations and should not be viewed as wasted training time.
- Over a broad range, increases in total training volume correlate well with improvements in physiological variables and performance.
- HIT should be a part of the training program of all exercisers and endurance athletes. However, about two training sessions per week using this modality seems to be sufficient for achieving performance gains with-
out inducing excessive stress.
- The effects of HIT on physiology and performance are fairly rapid, but rapid plateau effects are seen as well. To avoid premature stagnation and ensure long-term development, training volume should increase sys- tematically as well.
- When already well-trained athletes markedly intensify training with more HIT over 12 to ~45 wk, the impact is equivocal.
- In athletes with an established endurance base and tolerance for relatively high training loads, intensification of training may yield small performance gains at acceptable risk.
- An established endurance base built from reasonably high volumes of training may be an important precondition for tolerating and responding well to a substantial increase in training intensity over the short term.
- Elite athletes achieve periodization of train- ing with reductions in total volume, and modest increases in volume of training above the lactate threshold. An overall polarization of training intensity characterizes the transition from preparation to competition mesocycles. The basic intensity distribution remains similar throughout the year.
I will leave you with a question to ponder: If we are to exclusively include HIIT (at least 2x/wk as suggested in article) into an elite endurance runners program, how do we manage potential for injuries (think tendonopathy and other "overuse" injuries? Do we also need to include strengthening into endurance runners programs? How do we balance HIIT, strengthening, and running? Thoughts?