Are you in an exercise rut? Do you want to kick your fitness level up a notch and increase your endurance? Would you like to add more intensity to you workout? Interval training is a good way to achieve all of these goals in a safe and systematic manner.
Interval training is simply a matter of alternating high intensity exercise and low intensity exercise. It allows one to get the benefits of the high intensity work while giving the body some rest time. It allows one to extend a workout time period and build endurance gradually.
Running on a flat surface burns calories and gives your heart and lungs a great cardiovascular workout. Running up hill challenges your muscles, heart, and lungs, burning more calories and providing additional toning. But taking a 30 minute run up hill or on a steeply inclined treadmill would quickly exhaust most of us, or likely force us to stop early. However, running up hill then back down, or up hill then on flat ground would allow for high intensity work counter balanced by intervals of slower periods of active recovery. Interval training burns more calories and pumps more blood than continuous lower intensity exercise because it includes intervals of energy and oxygen-hungry work.
Because interval training burns a lot of calories and provides good muscle work, it may help you save time. A pound of feathers weighs the same as a pound of bricks. Likewise, running one mile burns the same number of calories as walking one mile. But walking one mile takes a lot more time. If your goal is calorie burning and toning, and you are short on time, then interval training does more, faster. Just remember that improving cardiovascular health requires aerobic exercise of 30 - 60 minutes, so don't make all of your workouts quickies, save those for when you're in a rush.
Interval training can also be helpful if your goal is to move yourself up to the next level of endurance and fitness. Maybe you have been trying to start a running program, but can't seem to maintain such a demanding exercise. Interval training is, in fact, one of the most effective ways to train the body. Marathoners commonly use this method to train for an up-coming race. A good program is to run for 4 minutes then walk at a good clip for 1 minute, or do a 3/2 interval. Your body will work hard then rest (while remaining active), work hard then rest. Your heart, lungs and muscles will make the transition to running, running farther, or running faster in a safe and productive manner.
There are a lot of ways to add intervals to your workout. If you are already a runner add hills or speed segments. If aerobics classes are your genre, add explosive moves like jumps or sprints. Include segments of speed walking in your normal walking routine or take the incline of your treadmill up a little higher at timed intervals.
Interval training is productive and can add excitement to your ho-hum exercise routine. Doing interval work in place of your normal routine, once a month, once a week, or once a day, is a good and effective plan. E-mail me if you need suggestions on how to intensify, endure and enjoy. You'll be glad you did.
Molly Setnick graduated from Baylor University with a BS in Health/Fitness Studies. She is certified as a Physical Fitness Specialist through The Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, Texas and is AFAA certified to teach aerobics. She co-writes a weekly column for the Texas Jewish Post with Jessica Setnick, MS, RD/LD called "Making Fitness Fit". She can be reached at www.FitInFitness.com.
Copyright © 2004 Molly Setnick. Permission is granted to reprint this article in non-commercial publications so long as the bio paragraph and this notice is included. All other rights reserved. Inquiries may be made at www.FitInFitness.com.
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