Interval training – What the research says

Posted on March 19, 2021 by

Recreational to elite athletes are forever refining their approach to race preparation.

Should you run/swim/row/ride your race distance very week and improve your speed over time?

Or is it preferable to break your training down into shorter intervals/repetitions? How about over-distance training?

There is a great depth of literature supporting the use of interval training for everyone from adolescents to elites1, and even those with particular underlying health conditions2,3.

Intervals are a great way to accumulate high speed activity in an appropriate manner.

For example, 10 lots of two minute running repetitions will be of a much higher quality than a steady 20 minute run, and can therefore lead to greater adaptations.


How do you apply this to your training?

If you’re preparing for a 5km parkrun, don’t just go out and run 5km every time you train; mix it up with intervals. Try 10 x 500m at your goal race pace, with a minute break between repetitions. If you’re looking for a further change in your routine, performing these short interval efforts up a hill or on the beach in soft sand adds greater resistance and intensity for the same overall distance.

The research says it’s ‘a little pain for a lot of gain’4, and once you get over that initial shock, it has even been found to be more enjoyable to train this way!5




1Laursen (2001) The Scientific Basis for High-Intensity Interval Training, Sports Med
2Weston 2014, High-intensity interval training in patients with lifestyle-induced cardiometabolic disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Br J Sports Med
3Wewege 2017, The effects of high-intensity interval training vs. moderate-intensity continuous training on body composition in overweight and obese adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Obesity Reviews
4Gibala 2008 Metabolic adaptations to short-term high-intensity interval training: a little pain for a lot of gain? Exerc Sport Sci Rev
5Bartlett et al (2011) High-intensity interval running is perceived to be more enjoyable than moderate-intensity continuous exercise: implications for exercise prescription; J Sports Sci



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