Ask the Experts: Run Intervals To Up Your Mental Game

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We are all familiar with interval and repetition training for speed work – but what about the effects on the brain? Are you able to mentally perform better with interval training?

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning research published an article this month on the benefits of interval training. The study examined 12 sailing school students during their preseason winter training. Cognitive testing, VO2 max testing, and two running tests—2,000m and 200m time trials— were used to assess the athletes before and after the interval training period, which lasted 7 weeks with 3 sessions per week. Sessions varied from 200m intervals to 2,000 m intervals, and progressively increased from 42 minutes to 90 minutes per session. Two groups were tested – the experimental group (those participating in the interval sessions) and the control group (no supervised training, normal activity level). VO2max testing, both running time trials, AND cognitive testing all improved in the experimental group.

I think it is safe to say most of the running world already has a good understanding of interval training’s place to improve running performance, but now we are starting to see evidence of VO2Max and cognitive function improvement! I am constantly asked how to improve VO2Max specifically, and the mental aspect of running is absolutely critical to success. I would like to see further research with a larger sample size, and with recreational road runners. Keep your eyes and ears alert for more developments!

Cathlin Fitzgerald, PT, DPT, CSCS, CAFS

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