An Introduction To Interval Training

Interval training is a popular training method for all walks of life whether you are an athlete looking to improve your fitness, or someone looking to burn body fat.

It is one of the best training methods for burning fat and consists of a period of high intensity followed by a period of low intensity or rest. Overall it is short, fast, and effective so everyone should give it a try.

Studies have shown that interval training offers higher fat burning and weight loss than the old school method of continuous cardio. Not only does interval training work better for fat burning, but interval training workouts are much shorter and require far less workout time than normal cardio workouts. This is perfect for those of you with busy schedules.

Many people are reluctant to switch from continuous cardio to interval training for a variety of reasons. One is that according to cardio equipment in gyms, it tells you that more calories are burned off during continuous exercise. This is not true as the machines are dated and track calories burned through distance covered rather than the intensity of your workout.

The other is that many people feel comfortable exercising at a continuous pace and dislike the feeling of working towards a maximum intensity as they get out of breath and their body temperature rises. Staying in your comfort zone doesn’t get results so raise the intensity and see the results come flying in.

The most important thing when it comes to burning fat is how hard your body has to work which is why interval training is ideal. Feeling uncomfortable for one minute, followed by one minute of rest or recovery doesn’t sound too bad does it?

If it still sounds bad then take a look at the benefits of interval training down below.

Benefits of Interval Training

  • Increased oxygen uptake
  • Better oxygen delivery to muscles
  • Burn off more fat than regular cardiovascular exercise
  • Burns more calories
  • Increase in cardiovascular fitness
  • Increased lean body mass
  • It doesn’t take long to do

Understanding interval training is pretty simple. One thing that people get wrong is they do not recover during the rest periods. People may feel as though they are doing more however if you can not work towards your maximum intensity during the high intensity period then it will not be as effective.

The easiest way to understand how hard you should work is using the RPE scale. This is the Rate of Perceived Exertion. It is basically a scale of 1-10 with 1 being standing still and 10 working at your maximum intensity. Your intensity should be as follows

High Intensity Period – RPE 8,9,10

Low Intensity Period – RPE 1,2,3

You should never be working at a continuous pace. The quality and intensity of your intervals should play an important role when doing interval training. This is to say the only time exercising is mainly done during the high intensity interval, with the rest period actually recovering.

Many people use the name interval training because it is a popular thing to do. This does not mean that all things that say are interval training are actually interval training at all. What I mean by this is if you are working out by doing one minute of squats followed by one minute of high knees followed by one minute of jumping jacks; then this is not interval training but circuit training.

Examples of Interval Training

Example 1

This is the one you recognise the most as it is the standard one minute on, one minute off.

High Intensity – One minute sprint – RPE scale 9

Low Intensity – One minute recovery – RPE scale 2

Example 2 

This one is literally a short burst at your maximum intensity followed by a short recovery. These workouts would only be done for 4-5 minutes. If you can manage any longer then you’re not working hard enough.

High Intensity – 20 seconds row – RPE scale 10

Low Intensity – 20 seconds rest – RPE scale 1

Example 3 

Known as cruise intervals and normally used for runners to work at their anaerobic threshold for time. A bit more sports specific and good for those of you looking to increase your running pace.

High Intensity – 3 minutes quick run – RPE scale 8

Low Intensity – 3 minutes recovery (light jog) – RPE scale 3

As you can see the harder you work the lower the intensity of your rest periods. Through intervals you should never be running at your normal pace in either the high intensity or low intensity sections.

Finally I hope you have a greater understanding of the benefits of interval training, what interval training actually is, and you now have simple examples to go and give a try yourself.

Give it a try, run your socks off, burn off fat, and improve your fitness!

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