What is Interval Training?

Have you ever been curious about Interval training and what it actually MEANS?

 Wikipedia defines interval training as such:

“Interval training is a type of discontinuous physical training that involves a series of low- to high-intensity exercise workouts interspersed with rest or relief periods. The high-intensity periods are typically at or close to anaerobic exercise, while the recovery periods involve activity of lower intensity.”

Are you scratching your head wondering “Huh”?

Don’t feel bad if you don’t completely understand the concept. Lots of folks are intimidated by the mere definitions of “interval” and “anaerobic”, especially when combined in the same sentence.

To explain it simply, interval training is a workout of short intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods.“Interval” is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a space of time between events or states”. When you are interval training, you are simply alternating bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity.

 “Anaerobic” means “without the presence of oxygen”; so yes, it means you are working very hard in the anaerobic portion of your interval training. The good news is that you don’t have to maintain an anaerobic state for very long periods of time, usually 30-60 seconds is all it takes to really get your blood pumping.

Why Do Interval Training?

 The benefits of an interval training routine include, but are not limited to:

  • burning more calories than a traditional workout
  • build up your cardiovascular endurance, thereby growing stronger and fitter
  • provide a great calorie burning workout in less time
  • to simply mix things up a bit to prevent boredom
  • to challenge yourself and your physical abilities!

How Do I Do Interval Training?

I love to do interval training at least once a week to shake things up. I will encourage you to try it when you are well rested and fueled properly — otherwise it just won’t be as much fun!

When I am doing interval training, I like to add bursts of high intensity anaerobic exercises between my strength training sets.

Here are examples:

Option 1:

Dumbbell Bicep Curls, 3 sets of 15 reps.

BETWEEN each set of bicep curls, I will do 20 body weight squats (high intensity)

 Then, I will move onto another muscle group, and again, add my anaerobic exercises in-between the sets.

Push ups, 3 sets of 15

BETWEEN the sets of push ups, I will add 25 toe-touches or jumping jacks (high intensity)

In the anaerobic phase, you should feel fatigued at the end of the set. This is where the real benefit of increased cardio endurance & calorie burning is achieved.

Option 2:

Alternatively, I may also work one muscle group, and while that is resting, perform another exercise in a different muscle group.

For example:

1 set of leg presses

Alternated with dumbbell bicep curls

2nd set of leg presses

Alternate with dumbbell bicep curls

3rd set of leg presses

In this progression, you are always moving. Even though your leg muscles are resting, you are working your biceps in-between the sets.

You may not feel as fatigued using the above method since you aren’t going into a true anaerobic state, but your heart will definitely be pumping by the continuous rhythm of exercise.

 Get the idea?

Thankfully, there are NO limits or rules to what exercises you can or cannot do when it comes to interval training. The key is to find activities that are challenging and really get your heart rate up. It’s important to note that after your high intensity intervals, you do want your heart rate to come down and recover before starting your next interval.

Be creative, play around with it, and see what works for you. Find intervals that are fun to perform and make you feel really proud of what you have accomplished.

If you have a heart rate monitor, you can track your progress and safely monitor your HR  during these intervals. If it goes too high, and you are feeling completely breathless, that is your cue to slow down your intervals. Always listen to your body!

We are much more likely to stick with an exercise program if we enjoy it, so try to make a hum-drum workout more fun by throwing in a few intervals! Your heart will thank you!

 ***Disclaimer*** Always obtain the clearance of your physician before beginning any exercise program, especially any interval based programs. If you begin to feel faint, dizzy, or short of breath, stop exercising immediately and consult a physician. This is just a general guideline of an interval based workout, and may not be applicable for everyone. Check with your doctor first.

How to Interval Train Safely