This is yet another topic that is called many different things and interpreted in various ways. Some call it cardio, some conditioning and others energy system development. I guess in the end it makes no difference what it is called as long as what you are doing is the right thing. The following is what I believe to be true with fact-based support from Paul Robbins, metabolic specialist at Atheletes’ Performance. Paul defines his methodology as energy system development. He breaks is system down into 5 phases; base, interval, linear, multi-direction and sport specific (or in our case, tactical specific).
Part 1 of this series will focus on the first two; base and interval.
This is a starting point. It is used to objectively test for a starting level of fitness. If you skip this step, you take the risk of over or under training. Depending on you fitness level this could last up to 7-8 weeks. The idea is to build up your aerobic capacity to be able to handle the various intensities down the road. For example, you may start with just a steady state conditioning for a week or two increasing and decreasing the intensity based on the day of the week, yet over time always increasing both the ceiling and basement to your steady state. Then you may start to add small aerobic intervals, which would consist of a lower intensity steady state followed by a period of greater intensity steady state.
Interval training is simply a period of intensity following by a period of rest or recovery. Intervals are intense. They are meant to push you to upper thresholds that will take you outside your comfort zone. The idea behind them is to have a maximum benefit in less than half the time it would take you doing conventional steady state work. They are proven to increase your VO2 max better than steady state work because of the demand that you body battles. There are many different methods but they are all based on two things; heart rate and time %. Your heart rate is a no guess way of identifying when you are recovered enough to go again and it gives you the indication of your maximum effort. Without a heart rate monitor it makes it very difficult to guess. The time % is based on your heart rate. It gives you an indication of what your work to rest ratio is. For example, if you were out side running sprints and it took you 30 seconds to complete, which is your work ratio, the sprint and at the end your heart rate was 180bpm, I would like to see a 40bpm drop before you go again. You would monitor how long it took you to get down 40bpm, which would be your rest ratio. So if it took you 1:30 to recover you would have a 3:1 ratio (30sec of work: 1:30 of rest). This is just one way they are many ways and variations but they are still all based on the two above factors.