Want to get more out of your workouts? There's a little secret in the fitness world called interval training. What is interval training? Rather than doing the same cardio exercise your entire workout, interval training alternates short, high-intensity bursts of exercise with slower, low-intensity periods of recovery. Research has shown that such intervals of high and low-intensity activity burn more calories, gets you leaner and build fitness quicker in a shorter amount of time. Once designed for elite athletes, interval training is now something the average fit person can try. You don't need fancy equipment or special training to rev up your routine with interval training. Read on to learn more about this fast, slow, fast, slow method of training and weight loss.
Theory Behind Interval Training: By alternating high-intensity movements with low-intensity movements, you're working both your aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic (without oxygen) systems. High-intensity exercise causes your muscles to produce lactic acid (waste products), which leads to muscle soreness. Too much lactic acid build up causes exercise to become exhausting and painful. Alternating hard and easy exercise will reduce the amount of lactic acid that accumulates, thereby making exercise more comfortable, improving your endurance and increasing your speed.
Interval Length: So how long should intervals be? The answer is, it doesn't matter. There are no real hard-and-fast rules about interval length. Varying lengths bring varying benefits. So how fast and how often you pick up the pace depends on you. Beginners should aim for no longer than 30 seconds of high-intensity bursts. If you're feeling strong and are in good shape, go ahead and push yourself a bit longer.
Know the Risks: While a no-rules approach may sound appealing; interval training isn't for the beginner. If you're new in the land of fitness, take your time as you increase the intensity of your workouts. Rushing into high-intensity exercise may lead to injury. Start out slowly. Add one or two high-intensity intervals each workout. Slow down if you feel you're overdoing it. As your stamina increases, feel free to challenge yourself.
Sample Workouts: Remember, there's no set rule about how to do interval training. It can be tailored to your fitness level and type of exercise. An interval-training workout involves four variables that can be changed to meet your goals: intensity of intervals, duration of intervals, duration of recovery intervals, and the number of interval repetitions. Interval training can be casual, spur of the moment bursts of activity depending on how you're feeling that day or if you're working towards a more specific sports or fitness goal you can take a more sophisticated, scientific approach. Interval training workouts have been designed for plyometrics, sprints, stair running, jump rope, speed drills, and agility drills. A simple example of interval training for walking would be to add short bursts of jogging or alternate slower walking with brisk walking. If you walk outdoors, you could jog or walk faster between certain landmarks such as mailboxes or street signs, then slow down for a short distance. A second example that really gets your heart pumping and improves fitness in a short amount of time includes running, rowing, or cycling. Warm up for about 15 minutes, then run, row, or cycle as hard as you can for 30s then go easy allowing your body to recover. Repeat these intervals of high- and low-intensity exercise approximately 8x. Then cool down for 10 minutes. I'm here to help you meet your fitness and weight loss goals.
To get the most out of your interval training try the following:
- Add Resistance. Between sets of cardio do a set with dumbbells, resistance bands or with your body weight.
- Increase Speed. Really push yourself during the sprinting intervals. Remember, it's only a handful of seconds.
- Lengthen Intervals. Add a few seconds to your intense intervals.
Change Exercises. If you've been sprinting then switch to burpees or high knees.
Brien Shamp brings you 22 years of experience as a Body Transformation Expert, Personal Trainer, Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach, Massage Therapist, Strength Coach for College & Pro Athletes and Reiki Practitioner. In 2011 he was nominated one of the top ten trainers in the country. Brien has a degree in Biomechanics from UC Davis and extensive graduate studies in Exercise Physiology from SF State. Brien won first place in the Met-Rx World’s Best Personal Trainer Contest in 1999 and was nominated Best in the Bay by KRON 4 for Weight Loss in 2009. He is an active author in Parenting on the Peninsula, Ms. Fitness Magazine and his FREE Blog with thousands of subscribers at www.BrienShamp.com