It's been used almost exclusively by elite athletes for decades,
but now you'll find plenty of average gym-goers taking part
in this trendy, fitness secret. It is interval training, a
method of exercise that combines high-intensity bursts with
short periods of rest, and converts say it's the fastest way
to really get in shape.
Interval training not only improves your endurance,
but it will help you to burn more fat the next time
you work out (even if you only exercise moderately).
"There's definitely renewed interest in interval training,"
said Ed Coyle, the director of the human performance laboratory
at the University of Texas at Austin in a New York Times article.
While athletes use interval training to improve performance
-- the dynamic bursts coupled with periods of rest closely
mimic what goes on in all kinds of sports, like baseball,
basketball, soccer, tennis and more -- the average person
looking to stay fit stands to improve their cardiovascular
fitness, boost their metabolism and raise their body's potential
to burn fat.
How Does Interval Training Work?
Interval training involves alternating intense activity with
periods of lighter activity. It can be easily translated to
jogging, swimming, elliptical training, biking and many other
The premise is simple. Using jogging as an example, one way
to interval train would be to jog for three minutes, sprint
for one minute, walk for three minutes, then repeat the process
for 20 or 30 minutes.
By pushing your body to its limits during the intense phase
of your workout, you avoid "stagnating" -- which
can easily occur if you simply jog at one speed for a long
period of time.
"After a certain period of plodding along, doing the
same steady-state jogging and cycling, you don't progress
-- your body gets used to what you're doing," says Christopher
Drozd, a Santa-Monica-based strength and conditioning coach
in an LA Times article.
In other words, to reach higher levels of fitness than where
you're at right now, you need to push your body above and
beyond where it's gone before -- even if it's just for a 30-second
high-intensity burst. The rest period in between then allows
for your body to remove some of the waste products from your
muscles so that you can continue on.
And, when you push your body to its limits, new muscle fibers
are being used. The next time you workout, even at a moderate
intensity, those new muscle fibers are still there to enhance
Will Interval Training Get Me Results?
Many studies have documented the beneficial effects of interval
training on conditioned athletes and beginners alike.
One study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology
followed a group of people who alternated 10 sets of four-minute
bursts of bike riding at 90 percent effort with two-minute
intervals of rest. After training every other day for two
Increased their cardiovascular fitness by 13 percent
Burned 36 percent more fat in an hour of continuous cycling
than they did before the interval training
Increased the enzyme activity in their muscles
"Even when interval training was added on top of other
exercise they were doing, they still saw a significant improvement,"
said Jason L. Talanian, an exercise scientist at the University
of Guelph in Ontariothe and the lead author of the study in
a New York Times article.
Get creative and try an interval workout while rollerblading,
cycling, jogging or swimming.
What to Know Before You Start Interval Training
Interval training can be done at any level, from beginner
to professional athlete. However, because it is a very strenuous
workout, if you have a chronic illness, are elderly or are
not used to intense workouts you should discuss the program
with your doctor first.
When you're ready to begin, keep the following tips in mind
to get the maximum results:
The high-intensity phase should last about one to four
minutes at 80-85 percent of your maximum heart rate (you
should be out of breath when you're done)
The recovery period should allow your heart rate to go
down -- but you shouldn't rest long enough for your pulse
to return to its resting rate
For a beginner interval workout, try this: Walk at a moderate
pace for three minutes, then jog for three minutes (repeat
for 20 minutes). At an intermediate level, jog for three minutes,
then sprint as fast as you can for three minutes (repeat for
30 minutes). You can then experiment with adding intensity,
increasing the number of intense intervals or working out
for a longer period.
To keep things interesting, try interval training while swimming
or biking, too. And remember, interval training allows you
to get an incredibly effective workout in a shorter amount
of time, but be prepared to work hard for the benefits!
NOTE: If you have or may have any kind of physical / health
issue, be sure to talk to your doctor about interval training
BEFORE trying any form of it.
to do AFTER a Workout to Get Maximum Benefit From Your Exercise
7 (Honest) Facts You Should Know About Losing Thigh Fat, Gut
Fat, and Fat in Other "Problem" Areas
of Applied Physiology 2007 Apr;102(4):1439-47.
New York Times May 3, 2007
Daily June 29, 2007
January 15, 200