Interval Training Part 2 (interval training terms)

There are several terms peculiar to describing interval training with which you should be familiar. 

Work interval is the portion of the interval training program that consists of the high-intensity work effort, for example, a 220-yard run at a prescribed time. Relief interval is the time between work intervals as well as between sets. The relief interval may consist of (1) light activity such as walking (referred to as rest-relief); (2) mild to moderate exercise such as jogging (referred to as work-relief); or (3) a combination of (1) and (2). The relief system usually is expressed in relationship to the work interval; together they form the work-relief ratio and may be expressed as follows: 1:1/2; 1:1; 1:2; or 1:3. A ratio of 1:1/2 implies that the time of the relief interval is equal to half the time of the work interval; 1:1 indicates that the relief and work intervals are equal; 1:2  indicates that the relief interval is twice as long as the work interval; and 1:3 as the work interval. Principles enabling us to note proper work-relief ratios will be explained in future blogs. 

With longer work intervals usually a 1:1/2 or 1:1 work-relief ratio is prescribed; with middle duration intervals a 1:2 ratio; and with shorter work intervals, because of the high intensity, a 1:3 work-relief ratio is prescribed.

A set consists of a series of work and relief intervals, such as six 220-yard runs at a prescribed time with designated relief intervals. Repetitions are the number of work intervals within one set. For example, six 220-yard runs may constitute one set and six repetitions. 

Training time relates to the rate at which the work is to be accomplished during the work interval. For example, each 220-yard run might be performed in 33 seconds. Training distance, on the other hand, is the distance of the work interval, for example 220 yards. Training frequency is the number of times per week for the workout.

An interval-training prescription contains pertinent information concerning an interval-training workout. It will usually include the number of sets, the number of repetitions, the distance or performance time of the work interval, the training time, and the time of the relief interval. As an example, one set from a prescription for a running program may be written as follows:

Set 1 6 X 220 at 0:33 (1.39)


6 = number of repetitions

220 = training distance in yards

0:33 = training time in minutes and seconds

(1:39) = time of relief interval in minutes and seconds

Daryl Conant, MEd