SMART MARATHON TRAINING is all about doing purposeful workouts, and doing intense workouts when necessary to become a healthier, stronger more injury-resistant runner. In the book I introduce readers to Dr. Izumi Tabata from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan, and one of my favorite, most grueling, most productive workouts: Tabata Sprints.
Dr. Tabata compared moderate-intensity aerobic training with high-intensity short interval training (sprints). He tested fit athletes on a stationary bike for a daily workout five days a week for six weeks, and found that while all athletes improved, the athletes who did eight repeats of a 20-second all-out sprint followed by a short 10-second recovery improved at a dramatically higher rate. The sprinters had a 10-percent increase in VO2max (the measurement of the body’s ability to transport and use oxygen) and a 28 percent increase in their anaerobic capacity.
What does this mean for you? That a short, very intense running workout structured in the same way could have greater benefits than a much longer training session.
For those of us who have trouble fitting our workouts into our busy schedules, that is great news. A Tabata workout could take as little as 30 minutes, including warm-up and cool down. Of course, the downside is that these workouts are very difficult. They must be run at very high intensity – a 9 out of 10 or higher on the scale of perceived exertion. Otherwise, you’ve only just gone for a pleasant 30 minute run, which won’t do much to move you closer to your race goals.
The Tabata workout could be a valuable addition to your training routine, but it shouldn’t replace other key workouts described in Smart Marathon Training. Tempo runs and long endurance training still brings benefits that sprints can’t. But give the sprints a try; after you catch your breath, your first words you speak may be to say how much you loved it.
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