Thanks for this link. Here’s the back story:
With her last Olympic Gold, Marit Bjoergen has just gone from being the most successful female winter Olympian to the most successful winter Olympian. While her results are nothing short of phenomenal her training methods are standard fare for top athletes across all endurance sports.
Here is the study referred to in the NYT article. It looks in details at the training history, especially the distribution of intensity in her overall volume by examining her training logs in detail.
While Bjoergen’s intensity distribution was about 90-10 (90% of her training done at low intensity-LIT / 10% done at high intensity- HIT) Seiler’s seminal 2006 study showed that world class athletes across the full range of endurance sports (XC skiing, rowing, running, cycling, swimming0 trained with an intensity distribution in the 80%-20% LIT to HIT training volume.
Here is that study:
The NYT writer makes the conclusion that Bjoergen is a single data point so it is hard to draw a conclusion. This is wrong on several counts.
1) Before the 2006 Olympic season Bjoergen changed her training to include a much higher volume of HIT and reduced the LIT sessions using a HIT training protocol favored by a Norwegian researcher Jan Helgerud. Helgerud’s research is still used as one of the principle supports for the current fitness fad of using HIT as a short cut to aerobic fitness. Her results suffered all season. She went on record after that season as saying this had been a mistake and returned to the traditional training methods. The subsequent results speak for themselves.
2) The previously most successful woman in XC skiing Bente Skari used a very similar training intensity distribution trough out her career.
3) Seiler’s studies have shown that these two are not outliers, as the NYT writer implies, but instead, they fit the training model of all the most successful endurance athletes.
One interesting thing that we see when digging into the training logs of both Skari and Bjoergen is that through their careers they added LIT volume while holding the volume of HIT rather constant yet they continued to improve.
High intensity training is very important for all endurance athletes. But what get lost in the popular press is that HIT is a supplement to, and not replacement for LIT.