Friday, July 23, 2010

Interval Training

A great way to maximize your cardio vascular workout time, build endurance faster and burn more calories is to add interval training to your regular cardio workouts. Interval training can be done during any type of cardio activity and on any cardio machine. This includes running, cycling, rowing, swimming as well as the elliptical and Stairmaster machines. You can even incorporate high intensity interval training to your strength training regime.

Interval training is any exercise done at a high intensity, usually at 75%-95% of your maximum heart rate. It is then followed by a period of rest that is a much lower intensity and repeated for several sets. These intense intervals can be as short as 20-30 seconds or as long as 15 minutes for aerobic training. The goal during this rest period is to allow yourself enough rest and recovery, so you can again push yourself at that high intensity. Using a heart rate monitor can help you see if you are working at that high intensity and it lets you know when you have recovered and ready to go again for the next bout of work. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, you can monitor your perceived exertion on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the hardest you can push yourself. How long your interval sets are, the number you do and the rest time you need will vary from individual to individual based on fitness level and goals. That being said, there are some general rules of thumb to follow when doing interval training.

A rest period always follows the high intensity work. Usually that work-to-rest ratio is determined by the athlete’s fitness, but it is generally one, two or three times the length of the work in high intensity interval training. An example is a 30 second sprint will require 60-90 seconds rest if done at 100% effort.

In longer aerobic periods of work where your heart rate is not as high, say 2 minutes, your work-to-rest ratio is usually one to one.

You can incorporate interval training into your longer workouts as well, just realize your perceived exertion should still be at that 8-10 even though the pace you are working at is slower, but you are sustaining it for a longer period of time (5-15minutes), which will still feel very hard.

More and more research on the value of interval training continues to be done, leading many fitness experts to believe it is more beneficial for weight loss goals because it burns more calories in a shorter amount of time. Also, it is just as valuable for specific training goals of speed and endurance, with less training time being done in that steady state mode. With interval training, you are maximizing the time you have to work out, seeing better results as well as making working out much more interesting and fun. So on your next workout, give it a try!

Written by Laurie Leonetti
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate
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