Easy. Hard. Easy. That's all interval training is. Any time you work from a "rest" period to increased intensity, then back to "rest" again (preferably numerous times) - you've done an interval. It doesn't matter who you are (elite athlete or exercise enthusiast) or what you're doing (running, cycling, swimming, stair climbing or elliptical-ing), intervals are often the saving grace of a boring workout, and the key to boosting your fitness to the next level.
The Benefits of Interval Training
Here are the three reasons interval training makes the cut on today's post:
Interval Training Burns More Fat
Recent research suggests that high intensity intervals burns more fat than working out continuously at one moderate pace. In fact, according to a study published in The Journal of Applied Physiology, both sedentary and fit women showed a marked increase in fat use and aerobic capacity after interval training (2007).
Interval Training Improves Cardiovascular Health
When you train on intervals, you're usually working out both aerobically and anaerobically. Your body doesn't adapt to one level like it would if you're working out doing the same type of cardio for, say, 45 minutes. Integrating an easy/hard/easy workout makes your body work harder and stay on its toes. Additionally, when you workout harder, your body taps into unused lung capacity, which means eventually you'll see improvement in your general fitness level. You'll notice this when a once-challenging run or ride feels more comfortable and do-able. You can take training or working out to the next level.
Interval Training is Always Changing
The same workouts day in and day out are boring. The minute you start to dread your workouts is when you've got to change things up. Intervals means you're always thinking of what's next. Even if your workout is confined to the same thing (running outside or an indoor piece of equipment), they feel completely different with interval workouts.
Sample Interval Training Workouts
If you've never done intervals before, use your own perceived exertion to guide you, with 1 being very easy and 10 extremely hard. Rest intervals should be right around a 5, and intense intervals should be between 7 - 9 (depending on your fitness level*). As mentioned above, intervals can be done anywhere, on any type of equipment at anytime. Below are just two examples of interval workouts that might work for you!
10 minute warm up
4 minute intense interval
2 minute rest interval
REPEAT x 5 (beginners); x 8 (advanced)
10 minute warm up
10 minute intense interval (right around a 7)
4 minute rest interval
REPEAT x 2 (beginners); x 3 (advanced)
NOTE: *If you're not conditioned or haven't worked out in a while, I would not suggest starting an exercise program with intervals. Rather, build a good base for several weeks and slowly start integrating a few intervals! As always, it's a good idea to consult a physician before starting any new exercise program.
University Of Guelph (2007, June 29). Interval Training Burns More Fat, Increases Fitness, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 26, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070627140103.htm