As an athlete, exercise physiologist, coach and exercise enthusiast, I believe in interval training in the "off-season" in order to maintain speed as you build on endurance. For if you spent weeks and months building your fitness in order to prepare for your final race of the season, why waste it for a few months of long, slow training...or for some athletes, no training/exercise.
I find it valuable to take advantage of your well-earned 2-4 week, unstructured recovery/exercise routine, but once you get that feeling again, intervals are a great way to keep the body fresh and sharp, without overdoing it.
The wonderful thing about interval training is that you have so much flexibility as to what the workout may be. I coach athletes from newbie to the experienced and every person has his/her own ability to do "speed" work. Speed work can be short and sweet, as in quarter mile repeaters or tempo as in 1/2 mile to 1 mile repeaters. All of my athletes (including myself) do intervals on a weekly basis and I find the most overlooked time to do intervals is during a long workout.
When it comes to resting between intervals, this will vary depending on the specific goal of a given workout, the type of workout, what you are training for and how long you have to train. Shorter rest will require a quick and efficient system to shuttle lactate and expire CO2 whereas longer rest will allow more time to lower the HR and make for a consistent quality workout.
Many people believe in long, slow "off-season" training throughout the entire "off-season" but I believe it is necessary to tap into the different physiological training systems, such as anaerobic/lactate and aerobic systems. Regarding building endurance, I find that it is a case-by-case basis, depending on an athletes upcoming goals, past fitness history and upcoming racing season.
For the most part, athletes can strongly benefit from speed/power work in their respective sport, during the off-season, alongside focusing on weight training and eventually plyometrics. Because it is the "off-season, volume can be kept low as to reduce the chance of burnout, injury and overtraining.
I find that breaking up the season into "chunks" as you focus on periodized training, is an effective way to once again - prevent burnout/overtraining/overreaching, develop a healthy relationship with food and exercise, reduce risk for injury and experience consistent performance gains. Because a proper recovery period is essential in order to rest the body and mind and to plan upcoming goals, I find that most athletes will benefit from a 8-16 week training plan, depending on the upcoming race, previous fitness and racing goal. Understanding that it takes time to "create" athletic greatness (yes, every one of you are GREAT athletes!!), it is important that training is structured to our current lifestyle requirements and that goals are created after you have taken into account any possible limiters which may affect reaching "ultimate" goals.
The structure of "off-season" will vary depending on the athlete and year by year (for a given athlete) and should not be so disciplined as it would be in the build or peak phase of training. However, I feel strongly that athletes should not neglect some sort of speed work in the off-season. When to start the gradually structured endurance build? I recommend to start around 4-6 weeks before your "season" begins and you start the "build" phase of your training.
I had a great run off the bike on Tuesday. Despite some crazy winds, my main set on the bike kept me entertained.
After a 1hr and 30 min bike, which included 6 x 3 min Z5 efforts w/ 2 min recovery, I grabbed my Garmin and headed out for a run.
8:05 min/mile pace (including walk breaks)
Mile 1: 7:48 min/mile
.6 mile: 7:29 min/mile
6 x .3 mile @ 6:20 or below pace (~2 minutes) w/ 1 minute walk
(I did each interval out and back x 3 so that I would get tailwind and headwind, evenly, throughout the main set)
1) 6:22 pace
2) 6:22 pace
3) 6:09 pace (must have gotten excited)
4) 6:21 pace
5) 6:19 pace
6) 6:19 pace
1.5 mile warm-down (7:52 pace, 8:03 pace for last 1/2 mile)
Later in the day, I was craving popcorn. Lucky for me, I have a bag of popcorn kernels in my pantry!!!
I couldn't think of a better whole grain to complement my egg and veggie omelet dinner. YUM!!!
(this is how I make it but you may want to follow directions in bag to prevent overpopping or burnt popcorn)
1. Heat large pot to low heat.
2. Drizzle with oil until bottom is covered with a thin layer of oil (about 2 tbsp)
3. Place kernels in pan until bottom is covered with kernels (thin layer) and shake until all kernels are covered with oil.
4. Cover and wait until kernels start popping (around 5-6 minutes). Give pot a light shake and continue shaking every minute) until kernels stop popping.
Veggie filled omelet
Grilled firm tofu (made the other night)
Eggs (2 egg whites + 1 whole egg + a little milk, per person)
Cheese (cabot jalapeno)
1. Cook mushrooms, corn and green pepper in a little olive oil until lightly brown on medium heat.
2. Scramble eggs and remove veggies from pan.
3. Pour eggs into pan and cover with chopped cheese (about 1/2-1ounce) and then spinach.
4. Spray spinach with a little non-stick spray and flip omelet when bottom is firm.
5. Cook for 2 minutes on other side as you place extra toppings on omelet.
6. Spread with greek yogurt and as you remove open face omelet from pan, fold one side over other to make your omelet.
Enjoy with a side of popcorn!