Interval Training Tips and Tricks
Ready to kick your workout up a notch?
Fitness trainers and coaches have used interval training for years, and the exercise method has never been more popular among personal trainers than it is today.
Interval training — defined as alternating short bursts of intense activity with active recovery — may be the answer to two popular excuses for not exercising: lack of time and lack of results, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Research shows interval training not only improves fitness performance, it also helps you burn fat faster than steady aerobic exercises.
Interval training also offers the benefit of flexibility because you can create your own routine and mix it up whenever you get bored. Another benefit of interval training is that when you do it properly, you can avoid the injuries that often occur from repetitive activities, says Theresa Riccardo, a certified personal trainer in Yarmouth, Maine.
The time to start interval training is after you’ve built up a base level of fitness from working out slowly and consistently for a couple of months. Whether you design your own workout or have a personal trainer custom-design one for you, ACE suggests including the following four variables:
- Intensity (speed) of work interval
- Duration (distance or time) of work interval
- Duration of rest or recovery interval
- Number of repetitions of each interval
You can design a workout using just cardiovascular exercises: walk/jog, run/sprint, or walk/run up hills at intervals with rests in between. “The goal is to rest just enough to somewhat catch your breath and then do another interval, says Riccardo. “These cardio combos are easy because you can do them outside without a lot of cost,” she says.
You can also design your workout to include intervals of strength movements with cardiovascular exercises. This combo will keep your heart rate up while fatiguing muscles without adding bulk. Using the list of exercises below as an example, Riccardo suggests starting with a short interval time of 30 seconds for each exercise, followed by a 15-second rest between exercises.
1. Jump rope
3. Wall sit
4. Jumping jacks
6. Lunges with bicep curls
When you’re ready to step it up a notch, you can try a more advanced version of interval training called intensity-interval cardio, says Jackie Warner, creator of the DVD “Personal Training With Jackie: Power Circuit Training.”
“Intensity-interval cardio has so many benefits over low-intensity cardio,” says Warner. “It increases aerobic capacity, builds lean muscle mass, boosts metabolism during and after exercise, and burns significantly more calories.” Using a treadmill, Warner recommends an intensity-interval cardio program that looks like this:
1. Walk uphill fast for 2 minutes (3.8 or 4.0 setting) at a 15 incline.
2. Then set the ramp to zero and run at 6.0 or 7.0 for 2 minutes.
3. Cool down with a 1-minute walk.
4. Repeat the cycle three more times to equal 20 minutes.
Whatever combination of exercises you use for your own interval training workouts, challenge yourself by increasing your speed and intensity every week.
Written by health writer Kathy Summers for MSN.com