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Interval training in mushing, YES or NO?

Updated: Mar 14, 2022


At the beginning, we will explain the importance of interval training in sports. We can partly thank Czech running legend Emil Zátopek for this training system. Another important pioneer of the interval training system in combination with the use of VO2max is undoubtedly the professor at A.T. Still University, Mr. Jack Daniels. It was he who introduced the VDOT measurement system (ie VO2max - ie the athlete's ability to use oxygen). He then began to use the knowledge in the training of runners, while making extensive use of interval training.

What is interval training?

Interval training is not the domain of runners. This term and system is used across all sports. It is a simple but effective training system. From the word interval, it is clear that this will be a training consisting of several training units with breaks. Unlike the running concept of this training, where interval training means running short to medium sections in a load close to the anaerobic threshold, dogs are sections of different lengths in a sled at different speeds - from low speed to one that is close to the racing pace. . To ensure high variability that eliminates training stereotypes, we divide our trainings into equally long sections, pyramid trainings, graded sections, time sections or random sections.

•The great benefit of interval training lies in the interruption for short-term regeneration. The human or dog therefore travels the total distance, ie the sum of all sections at a constant pace without over-acidification or overheating. If he covered the same distance at the same pace without interruption, he would exceed his physical limit at some stage. Then the pace decreases due to fatigue. Therefore, only training until the moment of fatigue is effective and beneficial.

A specific example of interval training can be, for example, 5 x 1000 m or 3 x 5 minutes. In endurance disciplines, when we are preparing for long distances from the middle and beyond, the sections lengthen proportionally. However, the racing speed is usually lower than in sprints and short sections.

•Another great benefit is the proven contribution to the development of short-term regeneration. Pauses between individual sections learn to use metabolism as much as possible for the most efficient regeneration. In the future, it is therefore certain that the athlete's / dog's body, which has often used interval training, will regenerate more effectively in the short term. This brings us to the topic of supercompensation and regeneration, but today's article is not about that.

•A very important rule applies to the case of racing speed training using interval training. If the intensity of the section is maximum, then the section should never be longer than a few minutes and the breaks between sections should allow the body to rest for at least the same time.

• Rest between sections is better to spend on the move. Many studies have shown that the body washes away lactic acid from working muscles better and releases accumulated heat during free movement.

Positive aspect

Negative aspect

Efective training

Difficult time management with dog

Development of short-term regeneration

Dog doesn´t know purpose of training

Non-declining performance across sections

Non sled dog breed could have low motivation

How do physiological functions improve?

*„If you want to improve some physiological function in your body for example racing run pace, you got to stress that function. But you want to stress it at the least the lowest intesity than the stres it. So you want to train at that speed!“ Jack Daniels


The quotes above and the characteristics of the training actually hide everything we need for effective training in order to improve performance. But how is it usable for mushing? If we want to increase our speed, for example on a scooter with a dog, then according to Mr. Daniels, we must train at exactly the speed that seems to be critical in terms of physiological functions. However, this is the main stumbling block. Unfortunately, there is no proven and easy way to measure your dog's VO2max or blood lactate accumulation. There were studies that focused on this measurement, it involved frequent and unpleasant manipulation of animals, blood collection and similar tasks that none of us want to apply to our dog. Another influential factor that comes into play with your dog is the accumulation of heat and motivation to move. These last two factors in humans can be addressed relatively easily, but in dogs they are crucial.

So is it possible to successfully and most effectively schedule interval training for a dog?

Motivation for activity

Each dog is naturally motivated for different activities. This is due to many years of

breeding. Hunters love hunting game, scouts like to comb inaccessible places, and shepherds look for their herds. Why do I mention that? Not every breed loves to move and although it will pull and will certainly find pleasure in it, it will not reach the very threshold of physical tolerability in training. Regularly attacking this threshold requires considerable motivation to move. Therefore, we can identify the motivation for the move as the main aspect that will have the most fundamental impact on the potential to improve.

Precisely prepared sections and a clear plan VS feeling for training and knowledge of the dog

Tables, exact procedures, identified unknowns and iron regularity in the dog will not work. Even if you compile the most reliable training plan, it will always depend on how your dog wants. How much is rested and on many other variables such as temperature, humidity, etc. Therefore, we must engage our own abilities and monitor our dog. The fact that we wrote 5 x 1000 m does not mean that it will go well today. Without the ability to recognize his current motivation and status, we will reach a stage where we will blindly follow the lessons and the plan. This can either make the dog bored or it will be so challenging that his natural appetite for the move will gradually take over. Although I often avoid the phrase "common sense", in this case it is the only useful tool for effective training planning. Unfortunately, without a natural feeling for working with dogs, even common sense will not help you.

Interval training YES or No.

Definitely YES, but according to the characteristics of interval training, we should follow a clear plan with a specific goal. As you can read above, our dog will only be able to do so under certain conditions. Interval training definitely has many positive aspects, but without the coach's ability to work with his dog, he will never reach them. At least they can be used to streamline the current training process. Many racers use interval training mainly to prevent the dog from overheating. During the breaks between sections, the dogs let them cool in the water and then continue to the next section. It is therefore clear that the length of the sections is random according to the availability of water. However, we are already talking about interval training, which brings the mentioned advantages.


Please take a comparison of human and dog training with a reservation. Although from a physiological point of view, our bodies work practically the same, as small differences as the ability to sweat and thus cool better, radically change the possibilities of training. In the same way, the motivation for a given activity fundamentally influences the result. The man goes to training with a clear goal, the dog goes to satisfy the desire to move.


*The citation is from the lecture p. Jacka Danielse.


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