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I hear from time to time that people consider it valuable to perform conditioning training until you cannot go on any longer. Some people I have talked to are proud that they have trained until they broke down or had to throw up. This does not sound really healthy to me.

Does such intense training make sense or is this just useless and maybe even harmful torture for your body?

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Consistently training to failure (which is what you're talking about) is a relatively controversial training technique. Some people advocate it as a way to push through plateau periods while others (myself included) consider it overtraining.

I think the only really beneficial thing about training "until they broke down or had to throw up" is that it will tell you exactly how far you can go before your body gives up. This is valuable information to know if you're a serious endurance athlete or someone like Lance Armstrong.

I'm not a fan of training to failure mostly because it is a safety issue for me (that and I don't feel like it is necessary). I weight lift by myself (no spotter) and I trail run by myself (I don't want to get exhausted five miles up a valley with the sun going down).

As an aside, training to failure shouldn't be confused with high-intensity interval training which has some well documented advantages.

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@kce-just curious as to your thoughts on whether you think training to failure is good for a competitive swimmer trying to get faster? –  Bee Jul 3 '12 at 12:03
    
I'm not a Fitness Professional and my experience comes from weight training where everything is about recovery so I can't really speak specifically to swimming. I think for the vast majority of people the downsides far outweigh the benefits. If you want to increase speed - why not do sprints or speed drills? –  kce Jul 3 '12 at 17:45

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