The Science of Interval Training

Dov Michaeli

Posted 2/17/12 on The Doctor Weighs In

Incredulous Dov

In my marathon-running days (I’ve got 13 under my belt) I used to train as I was told: put in the miles. Going out at five in the morning to run my daily allocation of 10-15 miles, with weekends of 20 miles, put me in great cardiorespiratory shape, and wrecked my body. I was constantly battling aches and pains, achilles tendinitis, and the blahs of overtraining. Despite all this dogged effort I was stuck in a frustrating plateau that I just couldn’t improve on. Until I stumbled oninterval training. It came in the form of a short hill, off the trail of my daily run. Just for fun (weird what runners consider fun) I decided to run up the hill (about 300ft) at maximum speed. I did, and was literally doubled over from breathlessness and exhaustion. But I also had a sense of euphoria, elation at the accomplishment. Well, when you hear euphoria, think endorphins (which are the endogenous morphins) and addiction. I kept coming to that hill and regularly increased the number of those short bursts of maximum effort, about a minute in duration each. I felt high. More important, I had a quantum jump in my next marathon time. So what happened?

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