When it comes to getting fit for an upcoming competition, you may have heard your coach talk about “building the base”. When they say this, they are generally talking about building up your aerobic fitness, before starting on your shorter and faster running training. 

Aerobic fitness is the ability to exercise continuously for extended periods of time. As we already know, touch football involves a number of fitness components. Athletes are constantly involved in high periods of max intensity, mixed with short periods of rest. Touch football athletes need to be able to adequately recover between sets, so that they can continue to perform at high intensities throughout an entire game. This is where aerobic fitness comes into play. Athletes who have a higher Maximal Oxygen Uptake (V02Max)*, which is regarded as one of the best indicators of aerobic capacity, are generally able to recover more rapidly. Ultimately, this means that they can continue to perform at high intensities for extended periods of time, without compromising their performance in the later stages of the game. This could be the determining factor in winning or losing.

 So how do we improve our aerobic capacity? When most of us think of aerobic fitness, we think about going out for a long run and holding a steady pace. Whilst OF COURSE this is going to increase aerobic fitness, there is another, and arguably, more efficient way to achieve this.

Introducing, high intensity interval training.

Interval training involves repeated short-to-long bouts of high intensity exercise, interspersed with recovery periods. Sounds familiar right? This form of training is not new – athletes, across a variety of sports, have been incorporating this type of training into their programs for decades. 

If you have attended a gym class, or if you’ve completed one of our conditioning programs, no doubt you have tried this style of training. The question is – will it increase your aerobic capacity the same way as going out for a long run will?  

The short answer is yes.

Numerous studies have indicated that both high intensity interval training and endurance training, induce similar improvements in maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max), as well as muscle oxidative capacity (our muscles’ capacity to use oxygen), muscle buffering capacity (eliminating accumulated metabolic “waste”, eg. lactic acid) and exercise performance.

 Now that we have clarified how you can reap similar effects from interval training, as opposed to a 5km run, we wanted to highlight why we prefer to use it in our programming.

1)     Train like you play

High intensity interval training mimics the game of touch football, as you are constantly following a similar pattern- working, resting, working, resting… There is no time in touch football where you are running constantly at a steady pace – so technically there is no reason why this type of training is required. 

2)     It is less time consuming.

In comparison to endurance training, high intensity interval training requires less overall time, and a decreased volume of work. You can get the same benefits from a 15-20min interval running session, as you would from a 30min distance run. If you exclude the rest periods and only consider the amount of time you actually spend running, you can be running for 3-4x times less, and still get the same aerobic benefits. This extra time means that you can work on other aspects of your training such as speed, agility and ball skills.

3)     High-intensity interval training will increase your ability to perform at a higher threshold. Not only does high intensity interval training increase your aerobic capacity, but also also induces improvements in anaerobic capacity, another key fitness component in touch football (more on this next time…)

In conclusion, there is no doubt that aerobic fitness is a fitness component that you need to be training in order to improve your overall touch football performance. Both endurance and high intensity interval training can effectively improve your aerobic capacity.  Whilst this blog favours interval style training, this is not to say that endurance running is in any way bad for you! If you prefer going out and running  5-10km, then by all means go for it! We just wanted to make it clear, there are plenty of efficient ways to get fit for touch. 

– Sammy and Ash

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 * VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen the body can utilize during a specified period of usually intense exercise.Having a high V02Max helps to ensure the provision of ATP (which provide our muscles with energy) to replenishes our phosphagen stores after short-durations of high intensity activities – which in short, means that we continue to perform at a high intensity with relatively short recovery intervals (from when you sub off in touch, to when you go back on the field).