Optimal way of doing short efforts

Here’s a question (that just came to mind whilst trying to stop my lungs from exploding and my stomach contents from appearing…).

[I am thinking about short running intervals here, but I am sure the same question would apply (and an answer would be of interest there too) to the bike, and slightly longer intervals too].

Out the back of my house there is short, steep hill (it hits about 15% max). When I feel like a beasting I will do repeated intervals on it. It is about a minute or so (for me) bottom to top. Slightly less on the first interval, a fair bit longer after a few efforts (!).

At the moment my running fitness is a fair bit lower than it has been, so whilst my overall time up the hill is longer than I might be “capable” of, I’m feeling it earlier on in the effort than I would hope. It’s steep enough to really hiit you even if going at a sub-flat-out pace.

So the question: if I want to get the most training effect and adaptation from such a session (call it 5-10 efforts. I just managed 6), how do I want to attack this hill?

If I go all out from the bottom, I’m slowed to almost walking by the top, though my HR is of course still sky high.

If I hit the start at a more reasonable pace I’m a bit faster at the top, HR is still the same sky high level.

Do I simply want to do it in the fastest time possible? Is pacing relevant here? It’s a reasonably short interval, so it is sort of flat out, but in reality it isn’t quite.

Do I want to try and do the same pace all the way up (and make that pace the highest I can such that I can maintain it?) Is there a benefit from going slower earlier and ramping up, or faster earleir to stress the body more earlier?

There are a couple of excellent comments from @Coach.Neal.H on pacing, but they tend to be more about getting through a section/hill at the best overall pace. I’m talking about training impact, which may or may not be the same thing.

Am I over thinking it?

On a trainer in ERG mode we see the Systm efforts typicaly as a constant power for the whole effort. This is less easy when running, and when you’re sprinting up hill for 60 seconds its hard to gauge that even with a foot pwoer pod.

For example, Revolver has constant power throughout the intervals, and each interval at the same power. The first few are relatively easy (I said relatively, Grunter), by the end you’re blowing on each and every one. Is that optimal? If one COULD change those levels, would it be better for the earlier ones to be higher power, the latter ones at a lower level so that each interval is the same ‘effort’. (I’m thinking of something like W’ here - what you’re capable of changes with fatigue). Without a personalised power model (even more than 4DP) doing such a thing is pretty hard to get right, but of course we often see th eadvice to slip in to level for these intervals and turn it to 11 every time. For, say, a 60sec effort is that appropriate still? I’m choosing my own pace when running up the hill then I have the ability to try and gauge this.

Sorry for the rambling, this was meant to be a 2 line question, it turned in to a thesis.

I’d love to hear from the coaches, but all opinions welcome!


@leebo Sounds like MAP intervals to me but you need to account for the hill. Maybe try something in the range of 85% to 110% of your 20 minute pace and see if that is repeatable 8 to 10 times with equal rest. You will of course need to account for getting back down the hill which also complicates things. For t(e bike you may just be able to drift down. For running I guess you treat that as a way to get some circulation into the legs but you area also using different muscles when going downhill.

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Generally, the advice for running intervals is to stop when you twice fail to be within 10% of your second interval. So ignoring the time of the first effort, let’s say you do the second one in 60 seconds. If you subsequently do two successive efforts in over 66 seconds then you’re done

In terms of pacing, don’t over think it. The gradient is unlikely to be constant. Eventually you will intuitively know how to get to the top in the quickest possible time.

By focusing on, and measuring, the time you should see some progression over the weeks. Remember, though: it won’t get easier, you just get faster :grinning:

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Thanks. What I’m interested in is not the best way to pace for the quickest time up, it’s what different training effects are like depending on pacing, and what is optimal to get the most out of an effort/session.

It’s a theoretical question just prompted by the hill that I have near me.

A lot of SUF efforts, like Revolver, are constant. But if onoe looks at Defender (a personal favourite), you start strong to hit the system, then keep hanging on until the and of the effort, but thetarget power reduces over the final 8 minutes. For me at least the efforts are doable, but I feel like I need that slight reduction to be able to keep on it.

That’s a longer efforts than I’m talking about here, of course, but the question still remains. What training effects does one get from hitting the interval hard at the start, followed by hanging on, versus, say, keeping a constant power/speed/effort throughout. And specifically for the shorter intervals like the ca. 1min in my running case, is one approach ‘better’ than another?

In 1min intervals, sure you’re probably working at a MAP-type effort.

@leebo Without knowing the hill we are just guessing but it seems like there are a lot of options - low cadence for leg strength, high cadence to develop better leg speed, intervals for cardio, etc. I don’t think it works as well for sustained since you need to go up and down but it could definitely work for VO2 max.

It’s exactly this kind of thing that I was getting at (but made a hash of describing):

The effects of varying intensity interval.

Certainly something that you see in different Systm workouts - I’m just interested in the science/training effects behind it

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Hi @leebo! There’s no single answer that’s “correct” for how to pace repeats on a hill like that - it depends on the kind of training stress that you want. If you’re looking for improvement in lactate tolerance and anaerobic capacity then push it harder from the beginning. If you’re looking for more of a VO2 max (MAP) benefit, then use a steady/consistent pace that leaves you ability to repeat the pace each repeat with just 1 ideally a maximum of 2 minutes recovery between each repeat. If you want to improve negative split pacing, then start easier and build effort over each repeat to learn how to manage short/hard efforts. Finally, you could also start your first effort relatively in control/easier - and then progressively push just a little harder each repeat - reaching near maximum effort on your final effort.
Regardless, I would suggest performing any of your sessions such that you “leave one in the tank” meaning that you don’t want to be completely exhausted and unable to do any additional repetitions once you’ve finished your session goal.

Hope that’s useful!


@Coach.Neal.H ,

Thank you, that is very useful. I like mixing things up anyway, but when you’re running, or on the road, the local topography can have a bbig impact on your session, so it is great to have some heuristics to fall back on - also to make things more interesting and make sure you’re hitting the right kind of training effect.

I hope the new Wahoo PainCave+ is working out well !

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