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!)