Get Fit and Fast with Interval Training

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Athletes have to be in great shape. They need the endurance and stamina to power through the final seconds of competition. In the past, jogging was considered the best way to get in shape, but now we know better. Jogging is not a good way to train the body for competition, because it produces slow movement patterns, which can actually hinder power and speed production. The best approach is to train in a way that mimics the pace of competition—and for that, nothing beats interval training.

Sometimes called metabolic conditioning, interval training involves sprinting or performing exercises at a high intensity and recovering at a lower intensity. With this method, athletes improve their ability to compete for longer periods and at varying levels of intensity. Most often used by runners, interval training is easily adapted for training in any sport. The key is to design conditioning sessions with your sport and position in mind: change the distances, running patterns [forward, backward, shuffle] and rest times to simulate your games.

Below, we break down one set of a sample interval session geared for football players. Use this as a template, but adjust the movement patterns to your position. Defensive backs should backpedal, turn and sprint; lineman should do shorter distances; and receivers should go for longer distances. Work up to completing four sets, mimicking the four quarters of a football game. After the first and third quarters, rest for two minutes. After the second quarter, rest four to five minutes.

Athletes competing in other sports can adapt this workout as well. Basketball players should adjust distances and movements to simulate the four quarters of a basketball game, taking into account their team's style of play. Fast-break teams will do full- and three-quarter-court sprints. Half-court teams will include more lateral shuffles to prepare for getting back on defense.

Similarly, hockey players can adapt the workout to a three-period game with ice-rink distances and skating moves; and soccer players can create a workout designed around two halves, pitch distances and common movement patterns.

Football-Specific Intervals

The following workout includes one quarter's worth of intervals, whether sprints or position-specific movements. Starting from the end zone, perform each movement once, and do them in order. Do 1A, then 1B and so on through 3B before resting. When you reach the other end zone, turn around and continue the workout in the opposite direction. Work up to completing four sets.

1A 5 yards 5 yards 15 seconds
1B 15 yards 5 yards 15 seconds
1C 15 yards 5 yards 15 seconds
1D 10 yards 5 yards 15 seconds
1E 35 yards 5 yards 15 seconds
2A 30 yards 5 yards 15 seconds
2B 10 yards 5 yards 15 seconds
2C 15 yards 5 yards 15 seconds
2D 10 yards 5 yards 15 seconds
2E 10 yards 5 yards 15 seconds
3A 40 yards 5 yards 15 seconds
3B 30 yards To goal line 2-3 minutes


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock