Interval Training to Improve Performance in Sports

The faster an athlete moves in training, the faster he or she will be able to move during competition. So athletes use a training technique called interval training in which they run, cycle, skate, ski or swim very fast for a short time. When they become severely short of breath, they slow down until they recover, and then move very fast again. Researchers at Ithaca College showed that athletes can gain as much by doing this type of intense interval training on consecutive days as on alternate days (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, September 2007).

Interval training causes considerable muscle damage, so it usually leaves athletes sore the next day. Most trainers recommend exercising at a slower pace until the soreness disappears. That is why athletes usually follow each intense day with one or more easy days. However, many competitions require an athlete to exercise flat out for several consecutive days. He may have to compete in multiple preliminary heats over several consecutive days to reach the finals.

In this study, the researchers asked cyclists to perform intense interval on either consecutive days or alternate days. Their improvement in time trials was the same. However, this study did not measure injury rates or risk of overtraining. Most athletes will suffer fewer injuries if they take a hard workout on one day and then go more slowly for as many days as it takes for muscle soreness to go away. More


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