Better interval workouts? Plus, a stretching reminder.

What’s the better interval workout? Long repeats or sprints?

Recently, we’ve been told that sprints can accomplish as much as or more than longer intervals. So why suffer through 3-4 minute repeats when we can just do 30 second repeats?

I’ve been skeptical of this. It’s just hard to believe that 30 second sprints are going to do the same thing, if not even better, than longer repeats for someone racing for 15 minutes, much less 40 minutes, 90 minutes, or multiple hours for a marathoner.

Well, it turns out intuition may be right. This study suggests that the shorter sprints do not in fact work as well as longer intervals for improving VO2max.

What might be even better? Enter a new part of the discussion. It’s long been known that, at least based on heart rate, it takes us less time to get to a target heart rate as a workout goes on. Add to that recent evidence that your recovery happens more quickly as you’re more fatigued (you’ll recover from a theoretical 90% fatigued to 50% fatigued faster than from 50% fatigued to just 10% fatigued) and some interesting questions can be asked.

One of them: what if we start with longer repeats, then shorten them as the workout goes along? It makes some intuitive sense and, in this case, it appears to allow you to spend more time in target intensity/heart rate ranges or spend the same amount of time in those ranges with less fatigue. This is a promising study I’d love to see some further follow up on and a good case for descending ladders (think 1600, 1200, 800, 400, some number of 200s or something similar).

Stretching reminder: The age old debate: does stretching help? Nothing really new here. My take: try it and see how it works for you. My only suggestion is to try dynamic exercises before and static stretching after. What evidence is out there suggests this is the most promising. However, don’t be afraid to try other things. In the end, my observation is that this is a very individual thing. Some people find that one method really helps them, while others find that the exact same method is completely useless.

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