Interval Training

Wish you could burn more calories while at the gym?  Of course, who doesn’t?  I would love to.

How? Aerobic interval training.  Sound scary, or too much for you?  FALSE, interval training is for everyone, from beginner to elite athlete.   

Interval training is alternating bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity (recovery).  You could do it with any type of workout, from spin class to walking outside; it all depends on your fitness level and how much you want to push yourself. 

How does it work?  Let’s take the example of being on a treadmill/outside on flat ground.  If you were going to workout for 30 minutes, start walking for 10 minutes then jog for 2 minutes followed with a sprint for a minute then repeat.  Not a runner? Walk faster for a period of time instead of sprinting or running. 

Why should you incorporate interval training into your workout? 

  • As mentioned, interval training burns more calories.  The more vigorously you exercise, the more calories you’ll burn — even if you increase intensity for just a few minutes at a time.
  • If you are someone who gets bored easily, intervals are for you.  You can add variety to your workouts at any stage and change it up often.
  • You will increase your cardiovascular fitness level.  Aerobic exercise increases your need for oxygen making your heart and lungs work harder to meet this demand.  The harder your heart and lung works, the more trained they will be and you will be in better health overall.
  • Less soreness!  We have all been there. .. The morning after a workout you wake up and roll out of bed and your muscles scream.  Interval training helps to keep the lactic acid (waste materials created when you exercise) in your muscles from building up. 
  • No special equipment needed.  You can do interval training outside, or even in your home.  Stepping side to side to then doing jumping jacks is an example of an interval.
  • Anyone from beginner to advanced athletes can use this principle and adjust your training as you progress.  Do what you feel you can handle that day.  If you can, increase resistance and speed on the elliptical during those higher exertion periods. 
  • Have specific goals for your fitness like wanting to lose weight, gain muscle or train for a race?  Interval training can help you achieve these results faster.   
  • More benefit with a shorter workout! High-intensity interval training is twice as effective as normal exercise according to new studies from University of Science and Technology

Who shouldn’t  interval train?

  • If you have injuries.  Interval training can put stress on any injury you may have causing it to get worse.  Make sure you are healed before you start.
  • You haven’t worked out in forever.  This doesn’t mean you can’t do interval training, just make sure you start gradually and not dive in head first. 
  • You have a chronic health issue.  Check with your doctor first.  Some health issues call for individuals not to get their heart rates above a certain level.
  • If you aren’t sure if you should do interval training, call your doctor and ask.

 There are a few ways that can help you know that you are achieving your greatest potential when interval training (what intensity you are current working in).

  • Talk Test
    • As a rule of thumb, if you’re doing moderate-intensity activity you can talk, but not sing, during the activity. If you’re doing vigorous-intensity activity, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.
  • Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE), perceived exertion scale. 
    • Perceived exertion is how hard you feel like your body is working. It is based on the physical sensations a person experiences during physical activity, including increased heart rate, increased respiration or breathing rate, increased sweating, and muscle fatigue. Although this is a subjective measure, a person’s exertion rating may provide a fairly good estimate of the actual heart rate during physical activity (Center for Disease Control)
    • Scale of 6-20; rate yourself during your workout.  6 is no exertion at all, 9 is very light (walking casually), 13 is somewhat hard, 19 is extremely hard, most likely the hardest you have ever pushed yourself.
  • Target Heart Rate

Don’t want to partake in the “Do It Yourself” Interval Training?  Here are a few other ways to do interval training in Chicago.

        One more reason to give it a try…

“When compared to people on a normal exercise routine, like jogging, research has shown those doing interval training can double their endurance, improve their oxygen use and strength by more than 10 percent and their speed by at least 5 percent. Even studies in the elderly and in heart patients found they had better oxygen use and fitness after doing interval training.”


3 thoughts on “Interval Training

  1. Is selecting the “interval” button on your gym’s treadmill or elliptical as effective as designing your own intervals?

    • Great question! Yes, the interval feature on the machines does follow the same concept. Some machines just vary your workout by increasing resistance or speed at certain times, while others actually ask for your heart rate and make changes off what level it reads. It is just important to note that if you do the interval feature on a machine, make sure it is a challenge and you are still gauging how hard you are working. You can select the interval feature on a machine, but if you are only at “level 1” it will still be very easy and not push you enough to get the benefits if your fitness level is higher.

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