If you feel you have hit a fitness plateau, spice things up by introducing interval training into your exercise program.
Interval training first materialized in the fitness world as a method primarily used for elite athletes looking to kick their fitness levels a notch higher. But it’s relatively easy to incorporate into any fitness plan.
Interval training involves spurts of low- to high-intensity workouts.
The high-intensity portion of the interval is normally done at a level recognized as your maximum potential. The low-intensity portion is done at a more comfortable rate and allows for a brief recovery period of the high intensity portion.
Sports Medicine reports that interval training uses both the aerobic, meaning with oxygen, and anaerobic — without oxygen — systems.
Aerobic activity allows you to move through a range of motion while still maintaining a regular breathing rate. Examples include walking, cycling or jogging at a rate that still allows you to talk or hold a conversation with a training partner.
Anaerobic exercise, such as sprinting at full speed, uses the energy stored in the muscles for that short burst of activity. This high-intensity level of training results in a quick buildup of lactic acid, which sends the athlete into oxygen debt. An example would be when you are running at a rate that would make talking to someone impossible because you are trying to catch your breath.
The recovery, or low-intensity portion, of interval training then allows the heart and lungs to replenish this oxygen debt and breaks down the lactic acid by using oxygen to convert stored carbohydrates into energy. An example would be walking after a sprint.
Why add interval training to your routine?
The Mayo Clinic issued reports saying that interval training helps you burn more calories and improve your aerobic capacity.
Sports Medicine adds that interval training helps avoid injuries associated with repetitive overuse, which is common in endurance athletes. It allows an athlete to increase training intensity without overtraining or burning out and is a great way to add cross training methods to your routine.
Medicine.net says interval training improves recovery periods.
Adding interval training is easy. The key is to start slow and build over time.
A simple example would be during a walking session.
As usual, always take a few minutes to warmup and prepare your body for a workout. Walking at a regular pace for a few minutes can be your warmup. Then suddenly burst into a run for about two minutes. The run should be at a rate and speed that you would consider to be 8-10 on a scale in which 10 is the most difficult level you can hold. Then walk for two minutes, followed by sprinting for two minutes. Repeat this process for the duration of your exercise time.
If you can’t sprint for two minutes, adjust your time accordingly and build up to the point where you can run for two minutes or more. For example, if you are a beginner, you may try to walk for two minutes, sprint for 30 seconds, walk for two minutes and repeat. Each week, add a few more seconds to your sprint time as your fitness level improves.
Once you become adept at interval training, there are a variety of ways of incorporating it into your workouts by varying time and intensity levels.
Interval training on treadmills, elliptical trainers and stationary bicycles can boost a boring gym workout.
On a treadmill, you could start by walking at an easy rate for a warmup and then crank up the speed for your 30-second-or-more burst. Intensity levels can be manipulated by changing the incline of the running surface from flat to angled and back to flat.
And interval training is not just designed for running or machines. Use them for your overall calisthenics program.
Try this 20 minute beginner’s workout offered by dailyburn.com.
In this fitness challenge you will go through five exercises that focus on full-body multi-joint movements.
After an initial warmup, do as many pushups as you can for 45 seconds. If you can’t do traditional pushups, try a modified pushup with your knees resting on the floor.
Rest for 15 seconds.
For the next 45 seconds, do as many squats as you can.
Rest for 15 seconds.
Do 45 seconds of butt-kicks. Jog or walk in place while kicking your heels up high enough to come close to or touch your bottom.
Rest for 15 seconds.
The next 45 seconds are for triceps dips. Place your hands on a chair or a low table, with your back to the chair. Put your legs straight out while balancing on your palms. Bending from your elbows, lower yourself as far as you can, then press up to the original position.
Rest 15 seconds.
The final set is 45 seconds of side lunges.
Rest for one minute and repeat the entire process two more times.
As you develop your fitness routines the options of adding interval training to your cardio, weightlifting or plyometric program seem endless.
But remember, interval training is intense.
Medicine.net recommends only one or two interval training sessions per week to start, with at least three days in between for recovery and growth. You can do more than one or two after six weeks of training.
Overtraining is a common mistake of the overly eager beginner and can lead to impaired health and performance.
As with any exercise program, always consult with your physician, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions.