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Purpose:

To quantify the impact of training-intensity distribution on 10K performance in recreational athletes.

Methods:

30 endurance runners were randomly assigned to a training program emphasizing low-intensity, sub-ventilatory-threshold (VT), polarized endurance-training distribution (PET) or a moderately high-intensity (between-thresholds) endurance-training program (BThET). Before the study, the subjects performed a maximal exercise test to determine VT and respiratory-compensation threshold (RCT), which allowed training to be controlled based on heart rate during each training session over the 10-wk intervention period. Subjects performed a 10-km race on the same course before and after the intervention period. Training was quantified based on the cumulative time spent in 3 intensity zones: zone 1 (low intensity, <VT), zone 2 (moderate intensity, between VT and RCT), and zone 3 (high intensity, >RCT). The contribution of total training time in each zone was controlled to have more low-intensity training in PET (±77/3/20), whereas for BThET the distribution was higher in zone 2 and lower in zone 1 (±46/35/19).

Results:

Both groups significantly improved their 10K time (39min18s ± 4min54s vs 37min19s ± 4min42s, P < .0001 for PET; 39min24s ± 3min54s vs 38min0s ± 4min24s, P < .001 for BThET). Improvements were 5.0% vs 3.6%, ~41 s difference at post-training-intervention. This difference was not significant. However, a subset analysis comparing the 12 runners who actually performed the most PET (n = 6) and BThET (n = 16) distributions showed greater improvement in PET by 1.29 standardized Cohen effect-size units (90% CI 0.31–2.27, P = .038).

Conclusions:

Polarized training can stimulate greater training effects than between-thresholds training in recreational runners.

Muñoz, Bautista, España, Larumbe, and Esteve-Lanao are with the European University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain. Seiler is with the Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway.

International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance