Purpose: To quantify the impact of training-intensity distribution on 10K performance in recreational athletes.
Methods: 30 endurance runners were randomly assigned to a training program emphasizing low-intensity, sub-ventilatory-threshold (VT), polarized endurance-training distribution (PET) or a moderately high-intensity (between-thresholds) endurance-training program (BThET). Before the study, the subjects performed a maximal exercise test to determine VT and respiratory-compensation threshold (RCT), which allowed training to be controlled based on heart rate during each training session over the 10-wk intervention period. Subjects performed a 10-km race on the same course before and after the intervention period. Training was quantified based on the cumulative time spent in 3 intensity zones: zone 1 (low intensity, <VT), zone 2 (moderate intensity, between VT and RCT), and zone 3 (high intensity, >RCT). The contribution of total training time in each zone was controlled to have more low-intensity training in PET (±77/3/20), whereas for BThET the distribution was higher in zone 2 and lower in zone 1 (±46/35/19).
Results: Both groups significantly improved their 10K time (39min18s ± 4min54s vs 37min19s ± 4min42s, P < .0001 for PET; 39min24s ± 3min54s vs 38min0s ± 4min24s, P < .001 for BThET). Improvements were 5.0% vs 3.6%, ~41 s difference at post-training-intervention. This difference was not significant. However, a subset analysis comparing the 12 runners who actually performed the most PET (n = 6) and BThET (n = 16) distributions showed greater improvement in PET by 1.29 standardized Cohen effect-size units (90% CI 0.31-2.27, P = .038).
Conclusions: Polarized training can stimulate greater training effects than between-thresholds training in recreational runners.