Introducing Intervals …

The pundits all seem to agree that High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT for short will improve your fitness and speed. Some see it as the way to get the greatest training effect for the least investment of time others see it as one arm of a more rounded exercise program.

It has been my intention to introduce intervals to my cycling program once I felt ready. That then means two days where I’m pushing the boundaries, one long ride for stamina and one HIIT leg burner for speed each week.

High intensity brings with it higher risk. Careful management is needed to avoid injury, over-training and burn out. According to Joe Friel it boils down to dose and density. The dose is the number of repetitions and the length of the rest between and the density is the number of HIIT sessions per week. His advice is to start with low dose and maybe a density of once every nine days. Then slowly increase the dose.

Then it’s a matter of putting it into practice. If we aim to chart our progress the doses need to be reproducible. How do we ensure that we are consistent in our effort through each interval? For the sophisticate it’s simple – an interval timer and a power meter. I’ll save up. Sadly the heart rate monitor is a poor guide because there is a lag at the start of the interval and that accounts for most of a short interval. You could mark out a distance and cover it at a set pace. That’s one interval, time your rest then repeat in the opposite direction. It works if the terrain is flat.

Even less sophisticated is to choose a hill. The interval starts at the bottom and ends at the top. The effort is flat out. The rest in between is the time it takes to cruise down to the start. This is the method I tried out the other day.

This is a screenshot of information harvested from the Elemnt Bolt. Heart rate is a poor way to gauge effort during the interval but it’s quite revealing for post ride (post mortem?) analysis. You should have no trouble finding three intervals. Maximum heart rate is around 150 bpm which is just about my predicted maximum from the formula 220 – age. This formula is well known to be inaccurate. By the time I reached the start point it was down to about 110.

The rest of the ride went smoothly.

One of the possible downsides to interval training is that the exhausted athlete will stagger home and curl up for the rest of the day. This was investigated by Bruseghini et al with men between the ages of 65 and 75 years. Their conclusion was …

HIIT does not adversely affect the lifestyle of active older adults, since it neither reduces daily energy expenditure nor increases sedentary time.

Fast After Fifty …

If it seems that my obsessive compulsive personality is fairly obvious in my writing I am put in the shade by Joe Friel, founder of Training Peaks, elite coach and author of a number of books on training for endurance athletes. I have just read one of those books Fast After Fifty. He was 70 when he wrote it and I suspect the title should have been This is how I’m Gonna be Fast After Seventy. It’s an informative read and some of his wisdom will find its way into my training regime.

In the first chapter we learn what age does to you and it ain’t pretty¬† …

To go on churning out fast times in the pool your shoulders have to stand up extremely well and you need a remarkable tolerance of the view from the waterline of the inside of a pool. At least it’s weightless.

The runner on the other hand has to absorb their body weight as it hits the ground over and over. Quads and calves work to absorb momentum even as the muscles extend – eccentric contraction. In cycling muscles shorten as they contract – concentric contraction – and suffer less fatigue as a consequence.

At first glance things look pretty good for the cyclist but that graph only goes to age 64! But it seems that the niggling little injuries are fewer – just don’t come off your bike and sustain the big ones.

As well as a prescription for training Joe encourages weight lifting and discusses recovery strategies, sleep and diet.

A very worthwhile read, I recommend it.

But once again the research is into the persisting older athlete. There is little to indicate what the reforming couch potato can expect to achieve in his or her later years. No good looking backwards for answers. Before the boomers took up jogging older folk were expected to take it easy, nothing too strenuous. We are pioneers.