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Polarized Training and the Endurance Athlete

If you are wondering what polarized training is, it’s very similar to interval training.  Interval training can be described as an intensity “mash-up” during a workout.  For instance, an interval training session may include:  a light jog for 2 minutes, followed by a 400 meter sprint, followed by a 2 minute light jog, followed by another 400 meter sprint, and so on.  The purpose of this exercise is to have your heart rate rise and fall multiple times within a workout, an effective training method for endurance and strength.

Using this form of interval training as a model, polarized training can be described as an intensity mash-up in a training period (multiple training sessions).  So instead of raising and lowering intensity in a single workout, you raise and lower intensity along a span of many training sessions. For example, one day you might do a light jog for for a prolonged period.  Then the next day, you might run 100 meter sprints with minimal rest.  This is a common, and effective, means of training for endurance athletes.

There are some common mistakes when attempting this type of workout.  What tends to happen is participants work too hard on light (recovery) days and too light on high intensity days.  Naturally, endurance athletes tend to move towards the “middle of the road” type of running pace, which will defeat the purpose of polarized training.  Heart rates on lighter days should be around 60% of your max heart rate, and you have some room to work with there as long as you stay below 70%.  However, on high intensity days, your heart rate should be above 90% of your max heart rate, it must be a truly hard workout. Good luck on your next workout!