Conditioning for Interval Based Sports

by Shawn Classen

Most sports are sprint-interval based. Throughout the duration of the game athletes go through bouts of maximal and slightly below maximal bouts of sprinting mixed with some running. Soccer, Lacrosse, Field Hockey, Basketball, Tennis, *Football, *Baseball, and *Volleyball are all sprint-interval sports.
Conditioning for those sports need to mimic their demands. Too many coaches rely on long, slow distance training. The old method was to match up conditioning solely for time. For example, a soccer match last for 90 minutes so coaches would prescribe increasingly longer jogs until they reach (or even exceeded) that 90 minute mark. The problem with this training plan is that it decreases the athlete’s speed and power. Both speed and power are crucial to athletic success.
How can jogging decrease speed? Let’s use the example of a soccer athlete. Say we want him to go on a training run of 90 minutes (the length of a game), to ensure he is working hard enough we tell him to keep his pace between 6 minutes per mile and 7 minutes per mile. This training run will be challenging even for the fittest collegiate soccer player. But if we take a closer look and break the run down to a commonly used distance for team sports, the 40 yard dash, we realize how slow the athlete is running. Even at a 6 minute per mile pace, the athlete is only covering each 40 yard dash at 8.1 seconds. 8.1 seconds per 40 yards would make you the slowest athlete on the pitch. At 7 minutes per mile, the athlete covers 40 yards in a painstakingly slow time of 9.5 seconds.
A better method of conditioning which won’t compromise your speed and power is sprints. Depending on your sport sprints can range from 10 to 100 yards. Repeated efforts with varying rest periods depending on your goals will provide all the conditioning that long slow distance provides without compromising the other aspects of fitness.
Long distance running isn’t all bad. If it is used sparingly (very sparingly) it can provide a great method to enhance team chemistry and forge mental fortitude in your athletes.
If you’re interested in a specific conditioning program to prepare you for your sport, talk to one of the staff at BucksFit.

*These sports unique natures require some different conditioning considerations.