Staff and students at the University of Copenhagen preparing for the DHL fun-run 29 August would do well to heed the advice of Copenhagen’s own sports scientists: Stop doing your hours of jogging or long intervals, and start doing a series of 10 second sprints instead.
The DHL relay is one of the world's largest fun-runs with over 125,000 participants, and will include two thousand University of Copenhagen staff and students Monday 29 August. Professor in sports science Jens Bangsbo and colleagues have just released preliminary results of a study that goes against conventional training wisdom, and gives valuable hints to those that need to sharpen up before the event.
A programme of ultra-fast sprints, the so-called 10-20-30 system, appears to improve runners’ times better than a programme with normal race-pace intervals.
Times improved by one minute on 5k
A control group of eight runners that followed a conventional training programme, were bettered by a group of 10 runners that did high-intensity sprint workouts with fewer training hours a week. The group that did their high intensity ‘10-20-30’ system improved their 5 kilometre times by a minute on average.
The 10-20-30 system consists of a 30 second walk or jog, followed by a moderately paced 20 seconds run, and then a 10 second sprint. This is done five times. After a break, the process starts again for a total of two to five times for each training session. The workout is repeated two to three times a week.
»What makes the training exceptional is the amount of training done at maximum speed,« explains Jens Bangsbo to the University Post. The key part of the workout is the 10 second sprint, where the running speed is much faster than the runners’ competition pace.
Activates muscle fibres
The success with the training system goes against conventional wisdom, which says that key workouts for, say, 5 kilometre specialised runners should also be done at a 5 kilometre race pace.
The scientists don’t know for sure why the high intensity sprints are effective, but they have a few hypotheses:
»One of the theories is that the higher intensity workouts activate muscle fibres that would not be activated under slower workouts,« says Jens Bangsbo.
Not higher injury risk
The research has shown that the workout is highly effective for beginners, but the system is also effective for trained runners, and could ultimately improve training regimens even for the elite.
»We can see in earlier tests that runners have improved from 37 to 36 minutes on a 10 kilometre race. These racers were not exactly elite, but they were well-trained to say the least,« says Jens Bangsbo.
The big question for runners is injury risk. Surely sprinting at maximal speed increases the risk of hurt? Not so, according to the scientists first results.
»There are no more injuries in the 10-20-30 group than in the control group,« says Jens Bangsbo.
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