When Slow and Steady Doesn't Win the Race

Is it time to shake up your cardio routine?  Time to make things more interesting while gaining more benefit but not spending even an extra minute to do it?  I have two words for you:  interval training.

For those of you not be familiar with the concept, interval training involves alternating high intensity exercise with periods of recovery.  There are many ways to do this but what you need to know is that you are in charge of the intervals and how hard you work.  You!  And you don’t need any special equipment, just whatever you are doing now:  treadmill, bike, elliptical, walking outside – it works for them all.

Sounds good so far, doesn’t it?  Want to know more?  Read on…

Here is how it might look if you currently walk on a treadmill, as an example.  Hop on and warm up by walking at a comfortable pace, then, when you are ready, increase either the speed or the incline (or both) to a level that pushes you to work harder.  Choose wisely, you don’t want to injure yourself!  It’s okay to start slowly.  But remember that you are shooting for high intensity.  Work out at this higher level for as long as you are comfortable.  Okay, maybe comfortable is the wrong word here.  But give it a fair shot, then back off and recover at your usual pace.  Then repeat.  Maybe you go fast for only 30 seconds and recover for 5 minutes.  Or maybe you go fast for 2 minutes and recover for 2.  You have to be the judge.  But over time you should be able to increase the time you spend at the higher level (and maybe the level itself) and decrease the time you spend recovering.

Why should you do this, you may wonder?  Well the answer depends on if intervals are an increase in your current work level or a decrease.  I am going to guess that for most of us, they are an increase.  So I will focus on those benefits.

Adding interval training:

  • improves performance, particularly aerobic capacity.
  • allows you to increase training intensity without over-training or burn-out.
  • burns more calories than if you spent the same time in lower-intensity exercise.  (And who doesn’t want to burn bonus calories?!)
  • supposedly targets abdominal fat!  (I am remaining optimistic but will believe it when it happens for me.)
  • adds variety to your exercise.
  • and in my personal opinion, makes the time go by faster:)  Really it does.

And I have read that given the rises and drops in heart rate, working out with intervals actually gives you as much cardio benefit as if you spent that same amount of time at the higher level.  Sounds good to me!

I have known about interval training for a long time but just never thought to add it to my home routine.  (We do intervals frequently in my cycling class).  But I have wanted to push myself with my workouts so decided that my husband’s new treadmill was calling me to try jogging intervals.  I am not a runner; I will never be a runner.  I don’t even walk very fast!  But now I am an interval jogger and loving it!  And I love how sweaty I get because that tells me I am working harder.  I was already doing cardio 5-6 days a week when I started these intervals, but after my first session my legs were surprisingly sore.  Another sign to me that I accomplished something:)  I am being very careful not to do too much or too often.  Just enough to add that little extra kick (pun intended) to my routine.

If you want to try intervals, I suggest you do some research first and consider your personal fitness level and goals.  This is where I make a disclaimer that I am not a medical professional or fitness trainer or any other expert who should give advice.  Just a woman finding her way and sharing what she learns.  And I have learned that intervals can really make my workout go by faster while making me feel like I am accomplishing more.  And that is always a good thing.  As for the other purported benefits, time will tell.

(Note:  I wrote this post before my vacation and shoulder injury.  No jogging intervals for me until I heal.  But I can tell you that I honestly cannot wait to add them back to my routine!)

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26 Comments

Filed under exercise

26 responses to “When Slow and Steady Doesn't Win the Race

  1. I LOVE interval training.

    I hope your shoulder gets better soon.
    .-= JourneyBeyondSurvival´s last blog ..BEST IDEA EVER =-.

  2. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the greatest story that was ever told. My workout feels ten times better when I do interval training.

    =D

  3. I love interval training. I feel like I can do anything for 30 more seconds. Thats when I burn major calories on the elliptical. Hope you heal fast! Sorry to hear about the injury. Thanks for visiting my little corner of the world.
    .-= Danielle´s last blog ..Living Life on the Outside =-.

    • Karen

      Funny thing… I have honestly never tried it on the elliptical. I really need to because I never feel like I am working out as hard on that, which is exactly why I added the treadmill work.

  4. I love the cartoon with your post. So funny.

    I do a lot of interval training. For one thing…I get bored really easily. Another reason though…is it burns more in LESS time….always a plus 🙂

    • Karen

      I liked it too:) Every so often I think to look for pictures to add to my posts. And then waste time searching.

      I think the intervals are great for boredom too.

  5. sunnydaze

    I “discovered” the wonders of interval training last summer. Now if I can only keep at it, LOL. 😀

  6. oh, ABSOLUTELY 100% YES! HIIT is one of those things that I can always convince myself to do when I don’t feel like dragging my butt out for a long run. I tell myself I can make 30 minutes out of my day for a HIIT session. Plus I think it makes the time go faster when you’re concentrating on intervals instead of steady-state.

    I absolutely love apple pie, too! It’s one of my favorite things to make…especially warm pie with vanilla ice cream melting over the top. Mmm!
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..Tuesday fixin’s =-.

    • Karen

      On my South Beach forum they would call my comment on your blog today “food porn.” I read a lot about the benefits of intervals for runners like yourself. Helps minimize injury and burnout. So good for so many reasons.

  7. Wow- what a great article! I have just recently started adding interval training into my workout and I can’t lie- it’s not the easiest thinig in the world but it DEF increases intensity and if I’m going to be on the upright bike for 30 minutes, I might as well get my calories worth!

    Great post!

  8. I appreciate you sharing this. I think I will add interval training to my, often, boring treadmill runs. Thanks ma’am!
    .-= Corletta Brown´s last blog ..Phase 2 or something like that : )…WOOT WOOT =-.

  9. Genie

    OK, you’ve twisted my arm. I’m going to try the interval thing! Seriously….slowly…. I do need to do push myself. Thanks.

    I agree, the Stars are boring this time! (Some I would hesitate to call “Stars”.) But, I still love the pros.

    My arm hurts!

  10. Genie

    Make that “I do need to push myself”. And, I need to read what I type before submitting.

    • Karen

      I wondered about adding a plug in to my blog that lets people edit comments. But I got nervous, with so many glitches already. I know I wish I could go back and fix what I wrote lots of times! Funny thing is I read it as you meant it:)

  11. This is a great way to mix things up and get your body into gear! Thanks for the great post!

  12. Once I get off my butt I will switch it up. At least I’m still eating healthy.

    Sidenote- I follow you yet you don’t appear in my reader. Am I the only one?
    .-= adrienne´s last blog ..KFC Double Down is Good for the Community? =-.

    • Karen

      For me, honestly, eating has always been the harder part and made a bigger impact. But I am sticking with exercise anyways:)

      And for anyone else reading along, Adrienne knows I am working hard on that reader stuff. Sigh.

  13. I love the interval training. For me it’s all about knowing that I only have to do it for x-amount of time and then I can do a lower intensity before I have to do the high intensity again. I follow the interval training routine in South Beach Supercharged (because I need specific instructions :))
    .-= Siobhan´s last blog ..what a difference =-.

  14. Pingback: Waisting Time , Archive » Running Away

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