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Interval Training


QUESTION:

A co-worker started interval training and has lost a lot of weight.  What is interval training and how do I do it?

ANSWER:

Interval training is basically defined as a workout that changes the intensity of exercise at various time frames or intervals, typically with a hard bout followed by an easier recovery bout.  When applied to cardiorespiratory workouts, interval training is a great way to not only add variety, but to also increase the training stimulus and crank up the number of calories burned!  Research clearly shows that interval training is the best way to improve your cardiorespiratory fitness.

In addition, interval training is a great way to challenge your body in different ways because the varying intensity or movement requires a reliance on different muscles.  This means that you get a better overall body workout.

You can add intervals to any workout by alternating lower intensity intervals, also known as recovery periods, with higher intensity work intervals.  The length and intensity of each bout can be tailored to meet your individual needs and training goals.  However, an example would be 30 seconds to 2 minutes of higher intensity intervals, alternated with 2 to 5 minutes of lower intensity intervals.  The higher the intensity, the less time you'll be able to maintain that interval.  In addition, the more intense the work interval the longer recovery period you'll need.

The work intervals do not need to be at the same intensity. Likewise, the recovery periods can also alternate intensities in the lower range.  There are various ways to crank up the intensity of the work interval.  For instance, if you are jogging you can either increase your jogging speed or increase your incline by jogging up a hill or both!  Mix it up and have fun with it!

Remember to start off slow and work from your personal current fitness level.  If you are currently a walker, start by eyeing an object in the distance, such as a telephone pole.  Then power walk to the pole, concentrating on maintaining good form.  Return to your normal pace and maintain this until your heart rate returns to your target range.  Repeat this process throughout your walk.  As your fitness level increases, adjust the difficulty of your session by either increasing the length or intensity of the work interval, or decreasing the time of the rest interval.

Interval training can be as simple or as complicated as you wish to make it. Whether you're swimming, bicycling, rowing, dancing or circuit training, intervals can enhance the quality and enjoyment factor of your exercise session.  Enjoy!

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Our expert, Dr. Sharon E. Griffin, holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in the areas of exercise science/physiology.  She also holds a second M.S. degree in Nutrition and is a licensed nutritionist and an ACSM certified health and fitness instructor.

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