I generally format Anaerobic Threshold (AT) training such that the work to rest ratio is roughly 1:1, though up to a maximum of 5mins between reps. I don’t train with a heart rate monitor, as most people know, so using the term AT for this type of session is really a description of the training aim for the session, rather than any sort of heart rate banding. So the aim of this type of training for me is to work at an intensity such that I pass my AT gradually earlier rep to rep, and thus train my body both to train through increasing levels of lactic acid, and to process and clear it between reps. I am not sure if this is the meaning everyone uses for AT training as I think some people might use the term to mean that they cap their heart rate at their AT point, but really this is the definition of UT training, with the upper bound being AT.
So in general, for longer reps at least, I tend to use the rule of 1:1 work to rest on these session, but with no longer than 5mins rest between reps. In my experience most well trained athletes can actually produce the same performance with up to half of this rest period, but the longer rests allow more mental regrouping, time to maintain hydration levels, and enough time to get off the erg and walk around a bit.
In the 5k training group we have around 40 athletes. I set their targets for each session in 2 weekly blocks, and use the last 2 to 3 weeks of results to determine their current capabilities. Having been doing this for some years, with athletes of various different ability levels, ages, and level of motivation and mental strength I have built a very good ability to set targets that are both realistic, and progress people’s performance. I stress that the targets are always achievable from recent results, but that the core sessions will push people pretty hard, and as such they should stick to the targets set in order to eliminate any big risk of session failure but progress well. Even after over 10 years of self coaching I still seem unable to stick to the same rules for myself though!
From the targets I set for everyone else, my targets for today’s 5 x 5min reps should have been 1:41 to 1:42 for the first 4 reps, then a faster last rep. For some reason I decided that 1:39.9 would look much better on paper, and that’s the target I would go for. I quickly came to the realisation at early as 2mins in the first rep that this would not be a realistic target, luckily early enough to back off to the original one!
5 x 5mins / 5min rest:
1486m / 1:40.9 / 29
1473m / 1:41.8 / 29
1473m / 1:41.8 / 29
1472m / 1:41.9 / 29
1488m / 1:40.8 / 30
7393m / 1:41.4 / 29
In the end, on paper at least, it looks like a well paced session (aside from rep 1 being too fast). In reality it felt like the target was too fast and I had to back off a lot to finish the session, because I had set in my mind an unrealistic target of 1501m (1:39.9) for the first 4 reps. Will I learn? Well, if I haven’t so far, probably not.