Maximize your workouts with this popular form of training. Read on to find out how to get started.
Wouldn’t it be nice to burn more calories but spend less time exercising? Consider interval training. Once reserved for elite athletes, interval training has become a powerful tool for the average athlete.
What is interval training?
It’s not as complicated as you might think: interval training is simply alternating periods of intense activity with periods of lighter activity.
Take a walk: If you’re physically fit, you can incorporate short jogs into your usual brisk walks. If you are less fit, you can alternate periods of leisurely walking with periods of faster walking. For example, if you are walking outdoors, you might walk faster between certain mailboxes, trees, or other landmarks. If you listen to music, alternate songs with fast beats and slower beats to help you along.
What can interval training do for me?
Whether you’re a novice or an avid gym goer, interval training can help you get better and faster results from your workout regimen.
Consider the benefits:
– You burn more calories
The more you exercise, the more calories you burn, even if you only increase the intensity for a few minutes at a time.
– You will improve your aerobic capacity
As your cardiovascular fitness improves, you will be able to exercise longer or with greater intensity. Imagine that you complete your 60 minute walk in 45 minutes. Or the extra calories you’ll burn maintaining the pace for 60 minutes.
– You will never be bored again
Increasing the intensity of your exercise at short intervals can add variety to your exercise program.
– You don’t need any special equipment
No need to burn yourself out and spend money on something new: you can simply modify your current program. You already have the perfect equipment, your own body! Just amplify what you are already doing.
How can I start?
If you just want to vary your exercise program and try intervals, you can determine the length and speed of each high-intensity interval based on your fitness level that day. Begin your activity by warming up. Then increase the intensity for 30 seconds, after which you will return to your normal pace. The next set of more intense activities may last two to three minutes. How much, how often, and for how long you will pick up the pace is up to you.
If you’re aiming for a specific fitness goal, you can take a more scientific approach. A personal trainer or other expert can help you time the intensity and duration of your intervals. This is based on your target heart rate, the ability of your heart and lungs to deliver oxygen to your muscles (maximal oxygen delivery: VO2 max), and other factors.
Are there any risks?
Interval training isn’t for everyone. If you have a chronic medical condition or haven’t exercised regularly, check with your doctor before trying interval training. Recent studies, however, suggest that interval training can be used safely for short periods, even in people with heart disease.
Also keep in mind the risk of overuse injury. If you rush into an intense workout before your body is ready, you risk injuring your muscles, tendons, or bones. Start rather slowly. Try doing one or two higher intensity intervals first during each workout. If you think you’re doing too much, slow down. As your endurance improves, challenge yourself to vary the pace. You might be surprised by the results!