Is your cardio workout getting boring and long? Do you find yourself on a fitness plateau with no progress to speak of?
Then it’s time to consider interval training (IT). IT is a favourite of coaches, professional athletes and distance runners, but the fact is that it could be adapted to suit just about anyone at any level of fitness, and it could be applied to any cardiovascular activity, including biking, running, walking, swimming, and rollerblading.
Whereas in continuous training you exercise at a constant intensity for the full duration of your workout, in IT you alternate periods of low-intensity training with periods of near-maximum high-intensity training. So, unlike continuous training, which is strictly aerobic, IT taxes both the aerobic and anaerobic systems.
The end result is greatly improved cardiovascular fitness. You will also save time because the length of the IT session is shorter and more intense. It is also more enjoyable as it gives you a greater variety of pace.
As an added bonus, you will achieve greater fat loss. Because the continuous training sessions are longer, it’s quite possible that you burn more calories during a continuous training session than an IT session, but the way IT achieves greater fat loss is by raising your resting metabolic rate to a higher level than that achievable by continuous training. This means you continue to burn extra calories even while reading a novel or watching TV.
How to do IT:
- Tailor your program to your current level of fitness: If your current aerobic session consists of a brisk walk, incorporate short bursts of jogging into it. If you are less fit, alternate fast walking with slow walking. If you are a jogger, consider incorporating short bouts of running in your routine.
- Warm-up: Before beginning the high-intensity activity, warm up thoroughly by performing low-intensity activity followed by stretching followed by a more low-intensity activity.
- Start high-intensity phase slowly: This means initially you start with short intervals, e.g., walk 2 minutes, jog 2 minutes. Increase the length of intervals gradually.
- Build up the intensity to 80 percent of your maximum capacity during a given session.
- Warm down by ending your session with low-intensity activity followed by stretching,
- The whole routine should take about 30 minutes. Do two sessions of IT per week. Your other sessions should be less intense.
If you’ve health problems or haven’t been exercising regularly, you should consult your doctor before trying interval training.