Interval training is catching on in a big way as people start to realise just how beneficial it really is. Before you really decide if this is a form of workout you should be including in your fitness routine, here’s what interval training is all about.
What is Interval Training?
Interval training alternates short, high intensity bursts of activity with periods of rest and recovery in between. Interval training uses the body’s two energy-producing systems: the aerobic and the anaerobic.
The aerobic system is the one that allows you to walk or run for long distances and uses oxygen to convert carbohydrates throughout the body into energy. The anaerobic system, on the other hand, draws energy from carbohydrates stored in the muscles for short bursts of activity such as sprinting, jumping or lifting heavy objects.
In interval training, the high-intensity periods are typically at or close to anaerobic exercise, while the recovery periods may involve either complete rest or activity of lower intensity.
This allows you to work more in a shorter period of time and it's much more comfortable than spending the entire workout at a high intensity. The key is to create workouts that fit what you can handle and what you want from your workouts.
Benefits of Interval Training
Interval training actually trains your heart to pump more blood to the muscles and it trains your muscles to extract that oxygen more efficiently, making all your other workouts easier to handle.
Faster and more efficient workouts
If you don't have much time, interval workouts are great timesavers, allowing you to get a lot done in a shorter period of time. If you want a workout that allows you to get in and out of the gym quickly, this is the form of workout to be burning to. You can easily complete the entire session in as short as 15-20 minutes.
Reduced risk of injury or overtraining
Because you vary the intensity of activity during your workout, you may be able to avoid injuries or overdoing it as compared with longer workouts.
Studies show that interval training, even at a moderate intensity, may burn more fat and will go on to burn plenty of calories after it’s completed as well.
Interval workouts offer more variety than other workouts, making them less tedious and boring.
How To Do It
- Choose any cardio activity
This can work with any machine or activity - Running, cycling, walking, elliptical, jumping rope, kickboxing etc.
- Choose the length of your workout
This might be 10-20 minutes for beginners or 30-60 minutes for more advanced exercisers. Choose the length of your work or recovery intervals - If you're a beginner, you might want to alternate 1-2 minutes of higher intensity exercise with 5 or more minutes of lower intensity. The more advanced may make their work intervals longer (e.g., 10 minutes) and their recovery intervals shorter (e.g. 2 minutes).
- Warm Up and Cool Down
Start your workout with 5-10 minutes of warm up followed by your work and recovery intervals. Alternate each for the length of the workout. End with 5 minute cool down and stretch.
Keep in mind that interval training is extremely demanding on the heart, lungs and muscles, and it's important to have the go ahead from your physician before you start interval training. You should also have a solid base of overall aerobic fitness before performing high intensity training of any kind.
Dos and Don’ts
- DO move faster. The faster you run, the more calories you’ll burn. Step it up during the higher intensity intervals and push yourself further. The interval will be over after a minute or two, and then you can slow down and have time to recover.
- DO incorporate this type of training at least three times a week. If you’re new to the interval training scene, the only way to make it feel easier and to see quicker results is to make it regular.
- DO warm-up before and cool down after your workout to allow your muscles to adjust accordingly and prevent any injuries.
- DON’T practice interval training on consecutive days. This type of training is intense and requires an adequate recovery period.
- DON’T perform fat burning interval training on an empty stomach. You’ll need the energy to perform the workout. Try eating a banana an hour before.