Reading Training Programs

Interval training is simple really. It just looks like arithmetic at first. Much like any type of training program whether it be strength or cardio, there is a prescribed number of sets and repetitions to be completed with a recommended rest period in between each one.

Repetitions: or Reps, tells you how many times to perform an interval or exercise.

Sets: Is how many times to perform the total number of repetitions.

Rest: How long to rest in between each set and rep.

For the sake of this article I am going to describe how I write my paddle/cardio interval training sessions. If you are having any trouble with your strength training programs, that is a question for Coach Chris, but I hope this article helps you understand both a bit better.

You will often see something written like this:

8 x 6min @ L2

1min rest

It’s almost as if it’s easier to read an interval program backwards and then insert the rests.

8x 6min @ L2 means:

Paddle at Level 2

for 6 minutes.

Repeat that 8 times

with a 1 min rest in between each.


Now what if you see something like

4 x 10min as:

6min @ L2

3min @ L3

1min @ L1

1min rest

You’re thinking okay, paddle for 10minutes, 4 times… what does the 6, 3, 1 mean???

When you see “as” this means the 10-minute interval is split up into different training zones. There can be 2, 3, or even 4 zone changes within 1 interval. You are still paddling for 10 minutes 4 times, but for the first 6 minutes you are at Level 2, the next 3 minutes you are at Level 3 and the last minute you are at level 4, totaling 10 min. Rest for 1 min before beginning the next rep.

Still with me? Let’s decipher some more.

2 x 10 x 1min @ L4

1min rest

5min rest between sets.

Wait, now there’s an extra X and 2 rests? Don’t worry, I wasn’t good at algebra either… 😉

This means 2 sets of 10 x 1min intervals. I often write it like this in my program in an attempt to be less confusing. Remember backwards.

2 x 10 x 1min @ L4 means:

Paddle at Level 4 for 1 minute.

10 times.

And repeat that whole set twice.

1 minute rest in between each interval (rep) and 5 minute rest in between each set.

I hope this is making sense.

You might see a workout like 6 x 5 min @ L3 with the last min of each @ L4. 1 min rest.

This would mean a 5 minute interval paddled as 4 minutes at Level 3 and 1min at Level 4 then resting.

These are a few of the most common styles of paddle workouts that I write and I know I write programs very similar to Larry and fairly similar to Travis.

Its takes a few weeks, but you will pick it up quickly as these patterns repeat themselves quite often. Feel free to ask questions of your coach and in the program discussions until you do understand. The more detail in a question, the better I can answer it.

For those of you just starting out, perhaps without a GPS or interval tracker, some of these workouts can get a little tricky to navigate. There are always ways to simplify. Just ask. I greatly prefer to have my Speedcoach for training, but I have done many a session with only a stop watch.

If you need more clarification, I welcome any comments and questions below. I’d also be happy to start a forum thread on this topic.

Next blog: How to find your Training Zones. 

Happy Paddling,


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