Interval Training

While the term interval training is very common in fitness circles, to the lay man
it’s often a totally unknown concept. But the reason it’s important is because
it’s a very useful way of getting fit or into shape. Many people run and for
various different reasons. Some may simply enjoy running, others do so to try
to lose weight, burn fat or get fit, others yet do so simply because they think
it’s the best way to achieve their fitness goals — sometimes for want of
greater inspiration. While I have nothing against running, the truth is that
unless your specific aim is to become a better runner, if for example you’re
wishing to tackle a marathon, then interval training is a far more efficient
and effective way of achieving almost any exercise goals you may have. I
personally don’t run, in part because I find it a bit boring but mostly because
my knees are shot and pounding the streets for 40-minutes really doesn’t do
them much good. But then also because I can get so much more out of an interval
workout than I can from a jog.

If we start by dissecting running, usually when people go out for a run they have
a set time or distance in mind before they start. That might be a certain
pre-defined course, a set number of laps of a park or even a designated
countdown time period before stopping. In order to get to the end and not run
out of steam along the way, people generally set off at a relatively
conservative pace. That means it will take you a certain amount of time and
indeed distance into your run before your heart rate really starts to climb
significantly above it’s rest rate and you start to burn serious calories. It’s
a low intensity exercise and therefore needs time to build up and start
takingĀ  a significant effect.

Interval training is very different, not least because the effect on your heart is much
quicker. You get your heart rate up much faster, the exercise or exercises are
more dynamic, more intense and work your muscles harder. If, for example, you
were to start some interval training with 20 press-ups, 10 tuck jumps and 30
squats — which can probably be completed within about 60 seconds — you would
manage to get your heart rate up to a level inside one minute that you probably
wouldn’t achieve until you’d been running for up to half an hour. Although
interval training involves short rest periods, the fact is that having worked
in a more intense manner than running could afford you in the exercise periods,
by the time you get to the rest period, your heart rate would be already much
higher than it would on a run. And the short rest period isn’t long enough to
significantly reduce your heart rate, meaning you would kick on again with a
heart rate still higher than running would achieve.

What this means is that despite the rest periods, if you sustain an interval workout
over the same time period as you would otherwise run for, your heart will work
much harder over that period. And so too will your muscles (which is
principally why your heart will be working harder). Whereas running uses
certain leg muscles, at a low intensity, and doesn’t change (unless you start
doing some steep hill running, and even then not too dramatically) interval
training allows you to target a much greater number of muscles. You can work
your quads (thighs) really hard for a short period, rest and then move onto
your chest, abs or back. That means your quads will continue to rest while, for
example, you do dips or crunches, but your heart won’t. This means you can work
individual muscles much harder than on a run — work them to failure — and
then simply move onto a another area before coming back to that muscle later,
perhaps as part of a circuit.

Overall your heart will keep working, and working hard, while you move around your
different muscles. This means you will be getting an aerobic workout at the
same time as an anaerobic one, while running only gives you an aerobic element.
What’s more, it allows you to bring variety to your training programme, whereas
you may otherwise always run in the same park or over the same course. With
interval training you can change the muscles you decide to work on during any
individual workout, or you could even work the same muscles but with different
exercises. For example one day you could do squats and another lunges. Or one
day press-ups and another dips, one day crunches and another Russian twists,
swap dolphins for bird-dogs, replace curls with chin-ups. The possibilities are
almost endless. Or one day give yourself quad, ab, tricep and bicep exercises
and another work on your calves, back, chest and shoulders. But keep the rest
periods shorter than the workout ones or you’ll be in danger of nulifying the
advantage of interval training.


Set you’re interval timmer to 20 rounds of 45-seconds (working out) and 15-seconds
(rest). Do five rounds of this four-exercise set: High knees running on the
spot, military presses, side-to-side shuttles, bicycle crunches.



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