Tuesday: Something new. Minimalist Intervals

Yesterday, I was up at 3:30am, on a flight at 6, then in meetings to 6 and dinner until 9:30, add in the time zone change and it was a 21 hour day on 2 hours of sleep.  I was pretty tired.

Tuesday:  I had to be at a meeting by 8 so I didn’t have a ton of time.  On the flight out, I spent some time reading this book.

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Now, I was suspicious of this book right from the title, but the author is at McMaster University and he has published some well regarded research into HIT, so I thought I would give it a chance.  The book is based on a really good paper from 2012.

Physiological adaptations to low-volume, high-intensity interval training in health and disease

The thing that I am struggling to comprehend is that this research is showing a measurable effect on endurance.  My understanding before was that low intensity duration built endurance and HIT improved lactate tolerance, strength and power.  This seems to say that doing intervals above VO2Max power has a beneficial effect on endurance, which is just plain weird.

But, anyway, it seemed like good chance to give this nasty hard interval stuff a try.  So, I decided to do the same workout that they used in the 2012 study for the HIT group.

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The study was done with stationary bikes, but it seemed any mode would work: treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike or erg.  Today, I went to the fitness center and the elliptical was open so I jumped on that.   I just programmed a 30 minute manual session and started going at about a level 14.  After 4:25, I cranked the “level” up to 23-24 (out of 25) and pushed as hard as I could.  At this level, I could barely move the pedals at first and it was pretty tough to make it through 30 seconds at the intensity.  The HR increase was so sharp that the monitor seemed to lag a bit.  Next time I torture myself, I will try to use the OH1 and Polar H7 to compare.

Here’s the HR response.  The first one I only got the level up to 22 and I think it was a bit too easy.  The second one I got all the way to 25 and pushed so hard I nearly threw up.  I kind of settled on 24 after that and it was just manageable to get to the full 30 seconds (plus whatever extra I got by turning up the level early.


Since I am always pressed for time on the road, and I seem to be trading off workout time versus sleep time, I think that this kind of short interval work might be a good travel solution.   If I am reading the paper correctly, it may do a better job maintaining my endurance than the shorter LIT sessions I typically do on the road.  Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens.  If I have time and an erg I will stick to the “real” training plan, but otherwise, I think I will tryout this HIIT style sessions on the road.

Tomorrow:  Another HIIT session before I fly down to LA for more meetings.


3 thoughts on “Tuesday: Something new. Minimalist Intervals

    • gregsmith01748 says:

      In the research, they actually looked at stuff like mitochondria density and capillary density in muscles and other stuff correlate with endurance adaptations, so I suspect that it is more than lactate clearing. He suggests that the fast increase in hr triggers particular adaptations


  1. Andrew Mclaughlin says:

    The reasoning I have read is something along the lines of the fact that reductions in ATP during high-intensity exercise cause a rise in AMP levels, which subsequently activates the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). This kinase is required to increase peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivator-1α (PGC-1a), which helps start mitochondrial biogenesis.

    There is a good graphic here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/46818376/figure/fig3/AS:280250295570450@1443828285926/Figure-2-Simplified-model-of-the-adenosine-monophosphate-kinase-AMPK-and.png

    One of the most key points is that the exercise truly has to be HARD. In that study the group is performing the sprints at 500 watts and the steady state at 150 watts. So, the sprints are at over 3x the wattage. 500 watts on an erg is around 1:28. Following a similar increase in intensity from a base steady state of 175 watts would create an intensity of 583 watts for intervals. That is a 1:24. (obviously it is hard to directly compare biking and erging, but I thought that would illustrate the difference in intensity)

    I’ve tried this workout on a bike erg and truly wanted to throw up after about 4 of them.


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