Monday, June 28th, 2010...7:01 PM

Get More Bang for Your Buck: Interval Training

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by Chris Heidel

Are you spending 60 minutes, 5 days per week exercising at a moderate pace on your favorite piece of gym equipment? If so, you could be wasting a lot of time and not getting the cardiovascular or weight loss results you are looking for. No matter what your fitness level, consider adding fitness interval training to your cardio plan to shorten your workouts and improve your results.

Fitness interval training combines periods of light to moderate-intensity cardio with high-intensity cardio for a workout that typically lasts 20 to 30 (but up to 60 or more) minutes, including warm-up and cool-down. By emphasizing all of the body’s energy systems, you are able to effectively burn both fat and carbohydrates, enhance total caloric burning at the cellular level, and increase your post-workout calorie burn.

Sample Fitness Interval Training Program

Note: If you are using a machine, use the “manual” setting, not the “interval” setting, and adjust the levels as your workout progresses according to the desired intensity. I also highly recommend using a heart rate monitor. As always, do not start any new fitness program without first getting clearance from your doctor.

Step 1: Find an aerobic activity that you enjoy (walking, running, rowing, elliptical, cycling, etc.).
Step 2: ALWAYS warm-up doing your chosen activity for 3 to 5 minutes at a low intensity (50-60% of HRmax, feels very easy to easy).
Step 3: Work at a high intensity for 4 minutes (moving from 70-85% of HRmax, feels somewhat hard to very hard).
Step 4: Actively recover at a low to moderate intensity for 4 minutes (moving from 60-70% of HRmax, feels easy to somewhat hard).
Step 5: Repeat 1 to 6 “cycles” (Steps 3 and 4), depending on your fitness goals and total workout time desired.
Step 6: ALWAYS cool-down by continuing the activity or walking for 3 to 5 minutes at a low intensity (50-60% of HRmax, feels very easy to easy).

Adjusting work (Step 3) and recovery (Step 4) times will help to vary the type of energy system you are working and keep you from being bored. To prevent injury and increase variety, alternate between interval training and more traditional cardio training methods.

Here are some of my favorite fitness interval training plans:
Official Body-for-LIFE Cardio-Training Plan
Men’sHealth

About the Author:

Chris Heidel is the owner and primary personal trainer with Libra Fitness in Austin, TX, a private, in-home studio. Chris focuses her business on developing mentoring relationships with her clients built on trust and meaningful support to help them set, achieve, and maintain realistic fitness goals. Chris truly believes that while getting in shape isn’t easy, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Chris is certified through the American Council on Exercise.

Creative Commons Photo by: Travis

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1 Comment

  • My track coach back in high school introduced me to intervals. He never explained the purpose, though. At the time, I believed we were just learning what it felt like to run at a 6-minute-mile pace, 6:30-minute-mile, etc. It seemed like a *lot* of effort and discomfort just to learn pacing.

    I rediscovered intervals as an adult. They work great for training your cardiovascular system so you can run, bike, or whatever faster without getting completely out of breath. The “fast” part is really uncomfortable, though! It’s amazing how long two minutes can feel when you’re in oxygen debt. But I think they’re really worthwhile.

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