Interval Training

What is interval training? Interval training is when you exercise to get your heart rate up to near max for an amount of time (sprint interval) and then bring it back down for an amount of time (rest interval).

These sprint intervals can be any amount of length. The rest intervals should not be very long. You still perform the exercise but at a slower pace. You should feel a certain amount of recovery while not being completely rested.

Why choose interval training? I admire people that run long distances. I think running marathons is one of the most difficult things to do in life. My family and I always go and watch the Twin Cities Marathon every year. It is so inspiring to see people of all different walks of life running (and wheeling) together. Some run for themselves and some run for other people. Then there is everyone on the sidelines cheering the runners on even if they don’t know anyone personally that is running. It is such an uplifting experience! However I don’t believe that our bodies are meant to run that long. It puts too much strain on the body. Think about how are ancestors lived. They walked to gather food and sprinted after animals. They didn’t run for long periods of time. That is my opinion. I know there are many people that believe differently.

What are the benefits of interval training? There are many. According to the American College of Sports Medicine you burn more calories during short high intensity workouts as opposed to longer lower intensity workouts. Another benefit is that it is easier on the joints than longer workouts. Interval training increases the body’s ability to use oxygen and strengthens the heart muscle faster than lower intensity workouts that take longer as well.

I don’t know about you but I would rather work hard for 10 minutes than less hard for 30 minutes while gaining more benefits! That doesn’t mean that interval training is easy. It is challenging work but very rewarding. I like to run hills. What I do is go to my neighborhood park where there is a pretty big hill. I run up the hill as fast as I can and then walk down to recover. As soon as I get back down I go back up again. It probably takes me 20-30 seconds to run up and then a minute to a minute and a half to walk down. I do this about 5 times. With a 5 minute warm up and a 5 minute cool down it is very fast.

If you would like to try interval training you need to first consider where you are in your fitness training. If you are new to exercise don’t sprint or run hills. Walk briskly for a minute on a level surface and then slowly for a minute. You could even walk until you are out of breath and then sit until you are ready to start again. You need to be the judge. Never do anything that is painful or gets you to the point that you can’t breathe and check with your doctor first.

You can choose your lengths by time or distance. If you are in better shape and would like to try something more intense here are a few ideas:

  • Start with a 5 minute warm up.
  • Run up and down a gym until you are out of breath and then walk the same distance to recover.
  • Run the length of a tennis court and then walk back.
  • Run up a hill and walk back down.
  • Cool down for 5 minutes.

Do as many as you like depending on how fit you are. I have found that 5 repetitions works best for me.

If you want to time yourself here are some examples that you can use:

20 seconds of high intensity and 40 seconds of low intensity or 1 minute of high intensity and 1 minute of low intensity repeated as you like.

Here is another option which is referred to as a pyramid style:

  • Start with a 3-5 minute warm up
  • 30 seconds of high in tensity, 1 minute of low intensity
  • 45 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
  • 60 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
  • 90 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
  • 60 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
  • 45 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity
  • 30 seconds of high intensity, 1 minute of low intensity
  • End with a 3-5 minute cool down

There are so many options. I am low maintenance and very busy like many of you. I just want to go out of my house and run and be finished. Since I live in Minnesota and don’t like to run in the cold I go to the gym in the winter. If there is no one on the basketball courts I will run in there. Otherwise I use whatever machine is available, except for the treadmill which is can be dangerous for this kind of exercise. I usually use the stationary bike, eleptical machine or a stair climber.

I love working out this way. Not only is it faster with faster benefits but I feel so powerful when I do it. When I am huffing and puffing up the hill and my legs are burning I feel so proud of myself. I feel like Rocky running up the steps! I don’t jump up and down when I get to the top but I want to! I also don’t have to worry about my weight as much because I am burning more calories. Isn’t that what we all want?

More on Exercise!