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Interval training is a type of discontinuous physical training that involves a series of low- to high-intensity exercise workouts interspersed with rest or relief periods. The high-intensity periods are typically at or close to anaerobic exercise, while the recovery periods involve activity of lower intensity.
Interval training can be described as short periods of work followed by rest. The main aim is to improve speed and cardiovascular fitness.
Interval training can refer to organization of any cardiovascular workout (e.g., cycling, running, rowing, etc), and is prominent in training routines for many sports. It is a technique particularly employed by runners, but athletes from several backgrounds have been known to use this type of training.
Interval training is a favorite of coaches because of its effectiveness in cardiovascular build-up and also its ability to make more well-rounded runners and riders. However, it is also applicable to exercisers as it helps improve exercisers’ aerobic capacity to exercise longer at varying intensities (Mayo Clinic, 2009).
Interval training can be an effective means of enhancing an athlete's lactate threshold. Lactate threshold has been shown to be a significant factor determining performance for long distance running events.
This method of training may be more effective at inducing fat loss than simply training at a moderate intensity level for the same duration. This is due to the metabolism-boosting effects of high intensity intervals.
"Walk-back sprinting" is another example of interval training for runners, in which one sprints a short distance (anywhere from 100 to 800 meters), then walks back to the starting point (the recovery period) to repeat the sprint a certain number of times. To add challenge to the workout, each of these sprints may start at a predetermined time interval, e.g. 200 meter sprint, walk back, and sprint again every 3 minutes. The time interval provides just enough recovery. A runner will use this method of training mainly to add speed to their race and give them a finishing kick.
Fartlek training, named and developed by Swedes, is intermediate between true interval training and regular distance training. The name means 'speed play', and consists of distance running "anywhere", with bursts of harder running at more irregular points, lengths, and speeds compared with interval training. Supporters of this discipline state that fartlek is an efficient training method, helping a person to avoid injuries that often accompany non-stop, repetitive activity, stating also that it provides the opportunity to increase a persons intensity without extenuating in a matter of minutes.
- Heyward, Vivian H. (2006) . "Designing Cardiorespiratory Exercise Programs". Advanced Fitness Assessment And Exercise Prescription (5th ed.). Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics. pp. 106–107. ISBN 978-0-7360-5732-5. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
- Short-term sprint interval versus traditional endurance training: similar initial adaptations in human skeletal muscle and exercise performance
- Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women
- NYTimes Article on Interval Training "A Healthy Mix of Rest and Motion"