Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Intervals and Pause That Refreshes

A Zen monk receives a greeting card. He smiles. He opens the card. It is blank on the inside. He smiles even wider.

We reap what we sow. What we do, or not do, has consequences. In the area of physical fitness, your race day results reflect what you invested into your training sessions. If you trained as you would compete, then you may settle in quickly into the race conditions, come what may.

I did interval training for the past two weeks. An interval set is where you incorporate higher-intensity work in seconds or minutes. For example, as part of one-hour cycling session, you may integrate 10 sets of 30 seconds where you pedal at your largest gear at about 40-45rpm. Between each set you recover by spinning at a lower gear for about one minute. As part of your long ride (4-5 hours), you could even extend your intervals into 3 sets of 30 minutes each (at 75-85rpm) with 15 minutes of easy recovery between. You could do 30X100m sets with 10 seconds for recovery with the front crawl.

How do intervals work? They work best after your warm-up, where you raise your intensity via higher cadence (spins) or heavier loads (gear). However, this increased workload is done at a brief duration, as you do not want to overly tax your body or you will suffer in subsequent sets. Your investment could be working with heavier resistance, or working at ‘all-out’ effort. The recovery period between sets is lower in intensity (usually lower gear at higher cadence) so as to allow your body to recover (lower your heart-rate, return your breathing to near normal, and encourage the removal of lactic acid from stressed muscles). This interval-between-intervals is crucial in order to challenge your gradually fatigued muscles to maintain its power output.

For running, you can also insert (one or twice a week) intervals that can be as simple as four sets of four minutes (4X4) of higher intensity running. A recovery of one minute should be adequate, unless you go all out in your earlier sets. That’s a total of 20 minutes for your intervals. For a 50-minute run session, you could do 20X30 seconds (with one minute recovery) as your main set.

Intervals help simulate race-day pace. In reality, you may run at various speeds throughout the race. You increase your pace to overtake; you slow down if you start to pant (and creep into Zone 4/upper lactate threshold). How important is the pause? How often do you take advantage of the time to recover? It allows your body to regain equilibrium, earning adequate oxygen intake and time to fuel your body. Walking through a drink-station may be the brightest idea than rushing through the fuel-stops without restoring your energy and fluid needs.

Give interval training a go. Begin with one session per week. Once you get stronger, you can manipulate the menu of duration, number of sets, recovery time, and speed. Monitor how you feel after each session. You should get faster and more confident as the sessions accumulate. All the best!

Leadership Lessons: How often do you monitor your ‘intervals’? How often do you stop to smell the roses? Do you pause for a cause? How often do you press the ‘pause’ button? Does your life end when you push your work aside? What’s the worst that can happen when you shift your priorities? Go on a vacation. Leave your work for a while! Avoid e-mails for a day. Live life, or it will pass by you.

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