Interval training is one of the best ways to get results from our cardiovascular training. This means training at high and low levels of intensity, rather than training at one pace.
Training ‘smarter’ is a buzz phrase at the moment and it is one that really makes sense. We are time pressured and want results quickly – whether we are in a work, social or health and fitness environment.
Whether you are in the gym on the treadmill, the bike, the rowing machine, the cross-trainer or the stepper, you will be able to use the same principle. Working hard for short, intensive periods will help you burn fat, increase your cardio-vascular (heart and lung) fitness and improve your all round levels of fitness. It will also help you avoid the injuries that are caused by repetitive exercise movements. Sprinting for a shorter period has been proven to be less damaging on the knees than running at the same pace for long periods.
While interval training is great for fitness, you should approach it with care if you are new to exercise. Here are some basic guidelines.
New to fitness:
The key is to incorporate interval training slowly and steadily. It can put strain on the heart because of its intensity, so it should be introduced with care. Always get your heart and muscles warmed up first and start by varying your workout between low and medium intensity, rather than going flat out. As your fitness improves you can increase both the tempo and the time spent interval training.
Sample running session:
Warm up with walking and gentle jogging for 10 minutes.
Walk for 60 seconds, jog for 20 seconds – repeat sequence for 10 minute period.
Steady, gentle jog for five minutes.
Two minute walk to finish.
Regular at the gym
This level of interval training is for those who lead moderately active lives. Try to incorporate two interval training sessions into your weekly schedule. This could be a bike session and a rowing session. Complement these sessions with strength training, circuits and one endurance session.
Sample rowing session:
Warm up at steady pace for 10 minutes.
60 seconds steady row, 20 seconds high intensity – continue sequence for five minutes
60 seconds steady row, 30 seconds high intensity – continue sequence for five minutes
45 seconds steady row, 40 seconds high intensity – continue for five minutes
30 seconds steady row, 30 seconds high intensity – continue for five minutes
Steady row for 10 minutes.
Avoiding back-to-back interval training, try to incorporate this type of training into your schedule three times a week. The key to improving your fitness is increasing the intensity to a higher level and sustaining that for longer.
Here is a sample bike session:
Warm up with a 10 minute speedy cycle on a low resistance.
Do a steady climb, increasing the resistance every minute for 10 minutes. For the last 10 seconds of each minute go as fast as you can.
Bring the resistance down to a point where it feels like 60 per cent of your maximum effort. Now cycle for 20 minutes adding a 20 second sprint at the end of each minute.
Bump up the resistance to 75 per cent of your max. Now you are really going to push it – 30 seconds of steady pace, followed by 30 seconds of flat out cycling for 15 minutes.
For the last part of your session, drop the resistance to about 40-50 per cent. Cycle slowly for 20 seconds and sprint for 40 seconds – keep the sequence going or 10 minutes.
Do a steady cycle cool down, gradually reducing the speed and resistance.
As with any new exercise programme, check with a medical expert if you have any concerns. If you are new to exercise, discuss with your doctor first as a matter of course.