Many athletes are familiar with the concept of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), in which an athlete works out for short intense bursts followed by rest periods. HIIT workouts are a great way to train at a higher intensity for a longer period and carry a slew of benefits over their lower intensity conditioning counterparts.
However, the typical format of HIIT is usually a set time period of work followed by a set rest period, which ultimately leaves the intensity of each interval to the athlete's own discretion. That can lead to either under- or overworking and therefore not getting the desired stimulus from the workout.
Task-oriented, time-limited (TOTL) interval training, however, involves a set time period in which a set amount of work must be completed and any remaining time becomes the rest period.
By setting a required amount of work to be completed in each interval, coaches can dictate exactly how hard their athletes have to work during that interval. The alternative - simply giving instructions such as "go hard" or "get as many reps as possible" - can lead to the athlete either blowing out (going too hard in the early rounds of the interval workout and then dropping the intensity too low by the end) or undershooting the mark and cruising through the workout at low intensity the whole time.
Time periods can be 1 minute, 2 minutes, all the way up to 10 minutes, with the task-specific interval composed of as many movements as you want.
A coach who is in tune with his or her athletes should be able to set a manageable amount of work that will require the athlete to maintain a specific level of intensity to complete it.
Let's look at a HIIT example of 30 seconds of rowing followed by 30 seconds of rest for 20 minutes. The athlete may row 20 calories in the first 30 seconds, completely blowing him- or herself out and end up managing to do only 8 to 10 calories by the end. Depending on how rapidly the athlete drops, the amount of work completed is likely to be significantly less.
Now let's look at a TOTL interval training example. An athlete is instructed to row 15 calories as fast as possible every minute for 20 minutes. A good athlete might be able to get this done in 20 seconds in the early rounds, leaving 40 seconds to recover. The athlete might slip to perhaps taking 40 seconds toward the end. Regardless, he or she will complete 300 calories of rowing at a max effort pace.