23 February, 2012

Dr Tabata and His Protocol

A few years ago, when between companies, I had more time to ride. I'd do 25- to 50- miles rides several times a week and do a longer ride or a century on weekends. That's certainly not extreme mileage, but it was enjoyable and kept me in shape. Then VO and other projects started taking more of my time.  So I started investigating ways to get good workouts that were more time efficient. I learned about Dr. Izumi Tabata and his protocol.

Dr Tabata is a Japanese researcher who developed a surprisingly effective high-intensity intermittent training routine that was proven to improve both anaerobic and aerobic condition. His protocol consists of twenty seconds of maximum output, followed by ten seconds of rest, repeated eight times without pause. So the total session is only four minutes long! Yet it's been shown to be more effective than a traditional 60-minute cardio training session, such as a bike ride. Of course it's not nearly as enjoyable.

Dr Tabata's original protocol is meant for elite athletes, not guys like me in their mid 50s. Some of us would be on the floor gasping after a full set going to 90% of max heart rate (at least I would be). Fortunately there are less extreme versions and plenty of info on the web about them. I've follow Mark Sisson's method, doing a few sprints on the beach or in a grassy field a couple of times a week. I do similar sprints on a bike. A couple of weeks ago we started doing paddling intervals at outrigger canoe practice.

Interval training can add some extra speed and power to any sport. I find it makes my longer rides more enjoyable. But, sadly, I still don't look or ride like Ottavia Bottecchia in that cartoon. The New York Times recently had an article about the health benefits of intervals.

Anyone else doing intervals or other training beyond simply riding?


GeekGuyAndy said...

I had zero interest in doing intervals, because my ideal ride is 100-150 miles at a reasonable pace (15-17mph) with a group, and I was doing okay without ever doing actual training.

Now that I'm looking to try a 300k and 400k ride this year, I'm hearing from nearly everyone that I should look to do more for "fitness" in order to last that long. I'm reluctant, but if a few intervals are what will make the looong rides more enjoyable, then I guess I'll have to try it.

I still have zero interest in just going out for training, but I've been picking up advice that I think will meet my desires. On the 50-100 mile rides, my plan is to have some times when I put out a big effort occasionally. So maybe every other hill will be a KOM for me, or a time trial stretch of road before the next rest stop is another idea. I'm certain that I don't want a sufferfest though, nor do I want to ditch a group ride for the sake of intervals.

My hilly commute is probably equivalent to what some people do for intervals anyway, so I might be okay with this plan. Trying to pass cars on the urban streets is a fun rush, and has never felt like training to me.

dr2chase said...

There's a hill on the way to work, I can either spend five extra minutes to ride around it, or go over it. Last time I was in the habit of riding over it, I noticed that I seemed to get stronger pretty quickly when I did. I saw that NYT article, I decided to try riding over it again.

The total climb is about 300 feet, in sections that I think are about 40 meters, 30 meters, and 20 meters, with minor flat spots in between. Longer intervals than Dr. Tabata, and fewer, but there they are.

It starts at about 1.1 mile into this commute (bikely). There's a brief bit that eyeballs out to a 10% grade (choose OCM, view in metric).

Steve said...

Seems like there's plenty of evidence to support the theory that interval training will make you stronger. The problem is that when done properly, interval training is no fun at all. And training regimes that are no fun are usually difficult, if not impossible to sustain (for lazy old me anyway).

So, in an effort to keep some fun in my riding, I do my own watered down form of interval training. While on my commute or other just-for-fun rides on my own, I look for "natural" interval opportunities like hills, headwinds, or maybe a traffic light that's thinking about turning red. I might look for five or six of those opportunities on a ride. I don't do it on every ride, only a couple of times a week. I never pay any attention to a stop watch or an HRM while I'm doing it, I just go "really hard" until I reach the top of the hill, the traffic light changes or it just feels like I've done enough.

I'm sure my plan doesn't offer the benefits of a "proper" interval training plan, but it's sustainable which beats the heck out of a perfect plan that I can't stay with for more than a week.

Bob Torres said...

I've been doing interval training for years. For me the best way to have a "controlled" interval is to do them while riding on rollers. Depending on my fitness level and attitude I have easier levels to extremely difficult levels of intervals. Outside I ride repeats on hills and with a fast group, just have the time of my life! Intervals combined with core and weight training can really make you super fast, strong and enjoy the more difficult/long rides.

Anonymous said...

Tabata's and intervals are both a part of Crossfit. If you are looking for a variety of cycling related intervals check out Crossfit Endurance.

SmartBikeParts.com said...

If you ride the same route into work frequently like me, you'll learn stoplight intervals. Find the ones that require 20 - 30 second sprints to safely make the light sequencing and you'll build intervals into your daily commute. Highly important that you choose safe roads with predictable traffic patterns as sprinting speeds are beyond what you can brake for or what traffic anticipates you moving at. Ride on.

Preston said...

Seems like the more things change,
the more they stay the same. All this is very similar to what we did
for interval training in the 1950s.

Trailer Park Cyclist said...

All of the above. I used to complain about headwinds, now I pretend I ordered them up and push as hard as I can. No hills in Florida but plenty of high bridges. I ride them in one or two gears higher and standing. There are parts of my favorite loop that I ride as fast as I can until it ain't fun and then slack off. I don't do it for fitness...I do it so I will be ready whenever there is no option.

Which is fitness, I guess.

Bob Torres said...

Remember Fartlek sessions! Back in H.S. when I ran in the track team our nice and happy coaches used to make us do these torture sessions repeatedly. Later on when I was older, and hopefully smarter I added intervals but controlled the madness and learn to listen to my body instead of listening to a coach blowing his whistle. I think the other part that most people forget is rest! What really helps the most is doing an easy recovery ride and plenty of rest. I see too many cyclist kill themselves riding too hard, way too long and doing ridicules fast "Recovery" rides and wonder why they get slower every year. A recovery ride is a ride that is ridiculously slow. These are the rides that is best done with a relaxed group or by your self with a camera in your handlebar bag. ;-)

MDGColorado said...

When I was a cat 4 racer 30 years ago I did what we called anaerobic intervals. 90-80-70-60-50-40-30 seconds, resting enough in between so heart rate returned to aerobic level. Less unpleasant are aerobic intervals, 3 minutes on and 2 minutes rest, repeated a few times. - Mark

Oreste said...

Very similar to Shotokan karate training regimen, as came down to us amateurs.