INTERVAL TRAINING AND LACTIC ACID
Gabe Mirkin, M.D.
To compete in sports that require speed, athletes use a technique called interval training. They
exercise for a short period at a very fast pace, rest until they recover and then repeat these fast bursts
until their muscles start to stiffen and hurt.
Interval training teaches your brain to coordinate muscles at a very fast pace. The principle behind
interval training is to move so fast that lactic acid accumulates in muscles, causing burning and
Your muscles get their fuel from fat and sugar that are broken down by chemical reactions that
release a little energy at a time. If there is enough oxygen in your bloodstream, the sugar and fat are
broken down into carbon dioxide and water. If you exercise so vigorously that you can't get enough
oxygen, the sugar cannot be broken down and the reactions stop, causing a chemical called lactic
acid to accumulate in your muscles. This makes your muscles hurt. When you rest, lactic acid levels
drop and the discomfort disappears. You run hard again, causing lactic acid to accumulate, rest, and
repeat these hard intervals until your muscles start to stiffen up.