Interval training is commonly defined as the alternation of short, high intensity effort with slower, recovery phases throughout a workout.
The benefits of interval training are myriad, but one key advantage is that you are able to fit more quality training into a shorter period of time; this will come in handy when you are trying to train for three different disciplines, whilst also maintaining a normal working and family life.
It is widely accepted that integrating interval training into your training schedule will increase your fitness and your race performance; this is predominantly because of its ability to increase your anaerobic/lactate thresholds. This handy infographic neatly sums up the concept of interval training.
As most of you will already know, anaerobic simply means ‘without oxygen’. You are working at ananaerobic level when lactic acid accumulates in your system and you can’t break it down quickly enough, therefore sending you into oxygen debt. This level of anaerobic capacity is generally reached by doing most exercises at a really hard effort; however, you can’t stay anaerobic for long periods of time, which is why interval training utilises short bursts of intense effort. However, as you continue to train at an anaerobic level, your anaerobic/lactate thresholds will increase over time, meaning your speed and endurance will also improve in the process.
Below are a few examples of interval training that can be incorporated into your current triathlon training plan. They are split into the three separate disciplines, meaning that they are uniquely tailored to each event, and will help you to improve all three aspects of your next triathlon. As always, ensure that you are adequately hydrated and properly warmed-up before your interval training session.
Another thing to consider is the utilisation of a pair of triathlon shorts, which can be worn during your interval training sessions, and won’t garner you any funny looks in the gym, compared to wearing a full tri-suit. From personal experience, ActivInstinct do a comprehensive range of triathlon clothing. They will also help you to become accustomed to their feel and fit, as you will probably be wearing them on the big day. A pair of triathlon shorts will provide you with total freedom of movement, maximum protection, moisture transfer, and reduced friction, meaning you can focus solely on your performance. Moreover, triathlon shorts are generally designed so that the right muscles receive the correct levels of compression, which is proven to reduce muscle fatigue, which is extremely necessary during a triathlon and the many months of interval training.
As with most interval training, monitoring your times is the best way to yield the best results. In order to first set a benchmark, aim to swim 100m as fast as you can; this time will act as the target time for your intervals.
For your swimming intervals, swim 8 x 100m using your preferred stroke.This means that you will be alternating between 100m of swimming as fast as you can on the odd reps, and 100m of slow recovery swimming for the even reps, with 30-45 seconds complete rest between each rep.
After a few weeks of swimming intervals, you will notice that you will be able to swim faster and for more reps. Therefore, you should aim to increase the number of reps by 2 every week; your times should come down naturally.
For the cycling leg of your training, perform a 3 minute warm up on a stationary bike, and then start by keeping the RPM above 90. After 30 seconds, increase the resistance on the bike by 1, whilst maintaining the RPM above 90; continue to increase the resistance every 30 seconds until you can no longer keep the RPM above 90, this is one interval. Return to the lowest setting and recover for 3 minutes, repeat this process again 4 more times, then perform a 5 minute cool-down. Again as you start to improve, you will notice that you can maintain the bike at above 90 RPM for longer intervals, which is a sign that your anaerobic capacity is improving.
When performing interval sprints on either the treadmill or the track, the basic unit of measurement is 400m with 45 seconds rest. Start by doing 16 reps of 400m at slightly quicker than race pace with 45 seconds rest in between; the following week, do 8 reps of 800m with 90 seconds rest in between. You will gradually work your way up to 3 reps of 2000m, with 225 seconds (3 mins 45) rest in between; then you start to decrease the distance again. The following table should provide you with a handy guide.