Short Interval Sessions for Trained Athletes

Short Interval Sessions for Trained Athletes

Let’s dig in a little bit into short intervals, what they are, and how they may be able to assist you reach your training goal. I was inspired by the talks and research completed by Professor Stephen Seiler. As always if you have any questions or need help incorporating this type of workouts into your training plan, feel free to reach out.

What are short intervals?

Short intervals are in a basic way those intervals shorter than 30 to 45 seconds in duration. They are a great tool to know as they can effectively train both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. This can be done very easily by manipulating the power and time of each interval. However, a longer set (stack) of intervals will normally be required to accumulate the desired time at training zone. If the set is not big enough, the adaptations that the workout will require will be minimal.

Are they better than long intervals ?

They are not better, but different. It is very important to know and understand that this is only another tool in the arsenal of a coach (even for self-trained athletes). If used with a short period of recovery, the anaerobic system will be taking on most of the work. As the rest period increased between intervals and sets, it starts to become more of a threshold workout.

They are in a way better or different, as the perceived exertion by the athlete tends to be a bit lower. Allowing them to be in a higher power zone, for a shorter period. Time at this higher power output, if appropriate will introduce a more efficient adaptation. Allowing the athlete to use a higher amount of muscle fibers during a target event.

There is a study made which found that there is little to no difference shown in the level of adaptation by athletes if time at the same high intensity was completed. Or another way of stating this is that 10 x 30:30s are not the same as 4 x 5:5s. However, 10 x 30:30s can be compared to 20 x 20:10s if the power output was the same during the entire duration.

When is it a good time to incorporate them into a training schedule?

A great time in an annual training plan to have short intervals implemented is closer to the target event. Of course, it will vary depending on what that target event or goal is. This type of workout will help in bringing out and sharpening the higher end of the athlete power profile. Training for an event is like baking a cake. There are certain steps that need to be taken, and it all starts with a proper foundation, or the cake will tend to be more on the flatter side.

In endurance training, building a good base will help you get to the finish line. After that, the art of training begins and factors like time-in-power and power-to-weight ratios are some of the things to focus on. They are all important, as without a part of the training your goal gets a bit harder to achieve.

What are some good examples of HIIT sessions with short intervals

  • 3 x 13 x 30:15s
  • 2 x 10 x 40:20s
  • 1 x 30 x 30:30s (threshold workout)

My opinion of Professor Stephen 3 Part Talk on Short Interval Blocks for Endurance Athletes

Profession Stephen Seiler has some very interesting points and ideas on what the desired effect of short interval sessions is. He as well explains the impact of recovery duration and what area of the cardiovascular system it is activated. I highly recommend watching them, they are not very long in duration but more to the point.

Links to related research and videos

Thank you for reading!

Gilberto Cortez - USA Cycling & TrainingPeaks Certified Coach

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