Athletes with higher VO2max require shorter recoveries during interval training

There has been a large amount of research looking at the effects of different interval training sessions. Most of this has looked at the effects of factors such as intensity, duration, volume, and recovery periods (active recovery, passive recovery, work to rest ratio etc). Whilst this has given us great insights into how to structure interval training, to maximise the performance benefits, it is not clear whether all athletes gain the same the benefit, from these training sessions e.g. should highly trained and moderately trained athletes, be performing intervals at the same relative intensity, and utilising the same recovery periods. [Read more…]

Passive vs active recovery during interval training

It’s well established that interval training is a great way to improve endurance exercise performance with many coaches putting a lot of thought into the speed, duration and volume of an interval session. However, less thought is often put into the importance of the recoveries between intervals and how this affects the overall intensity of the workout. One ongoing debate is whether the recovery period should consist of passive or active recoveries. The argument often put forward for passive recoveries is that they allow a greater workload to be completed compared with active recoveries – but is this really the case? [Read more…]

Using foam rollers to speed recovery, reduce DOMS and improve performance

Foam rollers are often used to stretch and release the muscle tightness and trigger points/knots that can build up following prolonged repetitive or intense training sessions. They are particularly useful for deep tissue massage which helps to break down soft tissue adhesions, scar tissue, trigger points and releases the tightness between the muscles and the fascia. By doing this foam rollers are believed to improved blood flow to the affected muscles, enhance recovery, reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), reduce muscle fatigue and improve muscular performance. This is supported by recent research looking at the effects of foam rolling following back squats (Pearcey et al., 2014). [Read more…]

Maximizing the benefits of strength training for endurance athletes

Whilst it’s clear that strength training provides a great benefit to endurance athletes, it can be difficult to incorporate strength training into an endurance training program without causing some disruption to the existing program. This disruption can be minimised, to an extent, by ensuring you perform strength training a couple of days before interval training, so that it doesn’t negatively affect the interval training. In addition it is well known that endurance training can limit the effectiveness of strength training by inhibiting the potential gains in both muscle mass and strength. A recent review article, looked at the molecular mechanisms that appear to cause this affect and proposed strategies to maximize the potential strength gains and endurance adaptations from concurrent strength and endurance training (Baar, 2014).

The review made four recommendations aimed at maximizing the benefits of concurrent strength and endurance training. The aim of the recommendations was to maximize the endurance training effect, by maximizing mitochondrial adaptation, whilst at the same time maximizing strength and potential muscle mass gains. The four recommendations were:

  1. If performing resistance training on the same day as high intensity training you should perform the high intensity training early in the day and leave a gap of at least 3hours before performing resistance training.
  2. You should consume easily digestible leucine rich protein sources as soon after training as possible in order to maximise leucine uptake. On days when resistance training is performed later in the day it also becomes more important to consume protein immediately prior to sleep.
  3. Ensure you fully refuel between the morning high intensity training session and afternoon strength training session.
  4. Consider performing strength training immediately after a low intensity, non-depleting (i.e. not long duration), endurance training session. As well as providing a strong strength training benefit, this will result in a much greater stimulus for endurance training adaptation than the low intensity training on its own. Importantly the low intensity training session should not affect the strength gains from the strength training session.

 

Reference

Keith Baar (2014) Using Molecular Biology to Maximize Concurrent Training. Sports Med. 2014; 44(Suppl 2): 117–125. Published online Oct 30, 2014. doi:  10.1007/s40279-014-0252-0

Strength Training – Why it’s important for Endurance Athletes

It always surprises me how few endurance athletes utilise strength training as part of their overall endurance training program. This is unfortunate since there is a large amount of scientific research supporting the benefits of strength training for endurance athletes. Before taking a look at the benefits of strength training for endurance athletes I’ll start by taking a look at some of the concerns endurance athletes commonly have about strength training and try to dispel them.

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Triathlon training: High intensity bike intervals improve cycling and running performance in triathletes

High intensity interval training has been traditionally used as means of improving cycling time trial performance, in fact a large number of research studies have clearly demonstrated improved time trial performance following a period of high intensity interval training. Recent research published in the European Journal of Sport Science (Etxebarria et al., 2013) found that not only do these intervals improve cycling performance, they can also lead to improved running performance with an average improvement of just over 1 minute during a 5km time trial (completed after a 1hour cycle). [Read more…]

Running Technique: Is changing from a heel first to a mid-foot running style beneficial?

Heel first running styleOver recent years there has been increasing interest in the potential benefits of changing from a heel first running style to mid-foot strike. Advocates of mid-foot running styles claim decreased injury rates and improve running efficiency, compared with a heel first running style. Since the majority of runners naturally use a rear-foot, or heel first running style, this has led to athletes and coaches looking to ways to change their natural running style in the belief that this may improve running efficiency, exercise performance and reduce injury rates. In order to achieve this specific drills are often utilized to try to encourage a change towards a midfoot or forefoot strike. [Read more…]

Plyometric training improves endurance running performance

Despite the proven benefits of plyometric and strength training for endurance athletes it is still not a widely used training method and is often neglected for a variety of reasons including, time constraints, lack of knowledge of its benefits, or fear that it will lead to muscle gains that could potentially harm endurance performance. Recently there has been a large number of studies published in support of the benefits of strength training for endurance. In a recent study published in the Journal of strength and conditioning research the inclusion of explosive strength training/plyometrics significantly improved running performance during a 2.4km endurance run (by nearly 4%). [Read more…]

Coffee improves cycling time trial performance

coffee for endurance | caffeine cyclingCaffeine is known to significantly improve endurance exercise performance in a number of endurance sports including running, cycling and triathlon. Most previous research has suggested that consuming caffeine through coffee may be less effective at improving endurance performance than consuming caffeine anhydrous, this was believed to be due to compounds found within coffee called chlorogenic acid which may impair the performance benefits of caffeine. However, a recent study comparing the effects of caffeine, coffee, decaffeinated coffee and a placebo on endurance cycling performance in eight trained cyclists/triathletes found that coffee appeared to be equally effective for improving cycling time trial performance as caffeine anhydrous (Hodgson et al., 2013). [Read more…]

Uphill interval training improves 5km running performance

If like me you’re serious about run training then it’s likely that you include regular hill training as part of your training routine. Hill training is a highly specific way to strengthen the muscles used during running, in fact it is probably the most running specific strength workout you can do. Whilst it is clear that hill running has many benefits for runners there has always been a debate as to what is the best type of hill training (long hills vs short hills, 10k pace vs 5k pace hill reps etc). Recent research has looked to shed some light on the effects of different hill running intervals on 5km run performance in a group of well trained runners (Barnes et al., 2013). [Read more…]