Interval Training & How It Can Improve Your Fitness

By Michela DiTocco
Interval training has been discussed a lot in regards to its benefits for weight loss and improvement on your cardiovascular system, and we will discuss this and many other benefits this type of training has to offer and how you can implement it into your training sessions.
First off, interval training is a type of physical training which involves sets of high intensity and low intensity workouts or a rest/recovery period. It can be used in a variety of different types of training activities such as running, cycling, and rowing, to name a few. Many studies have shown that just 20 minutes of true interval training is sufficient to achieve maximum benefits and that is better than steady state training. True interval training is where during the high intensity periods you are working at 80-90% of your max heart rate and should be really struggling towards the end; for the low intensity periods, you will rest or be working at around 50% of your max heart rate.
The main benefits of interval training include: a boost in your metabolism, working out for less time to burn as many calories, muscular tolerance to lactic acid build up, improvement in your cardiovascular system, injury prevention (common with repetitive exercises), burning off more extra fat than regular training, and an increase in energy burnt after exercises (EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). One of the main reasons people choose to include this type of training into their regime is that it uses both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, allowing you to exercise for longer periods. If you are only able to train for small times in the beginning, it will help to improve your aerobic capacity so you are able to exercise for longer periods over varying intensities. The other main reason for adopting this type of training is that it has been shown that interval training may be more effective at inducing fat loss than simply training at a moderate intensity level (50-60% of your max heart rate). This is due to the fact that you are burning more calories during the session and you are using multiple energy systems (using up your readily available stores of muscle glycogen and fat).
There are different types of interval training. Standard training involves high intensity activity for 1 minute and low intensity activity for 1 minute (for example alternating with running and walking). Another type is pyramid training, which involves a 30 second run, a 1 minute walk, then a 45 second run, a 1 minute walk, then a 60 second run, a 1 minute walk and a 90 second run and a 1 minute walk. This sequence is then reversed to achieve a pyramid effect in your training. Another style is sports conditioning training, which has you working 2 minutes at a moderate intensity then 2 minutes low intensity, repeating for a few sets, then increasing to 30 seconds of high intensity and 30 seconds of low intensity for a few sets. This type of training is sports-specific and needs to be developed according to the sport you participate in. Fartlek training is another type of interval training that has been around for a number of years and is originally from Sweden. It uses both time and distance over varying speeds to utilize both energy systems.
A few tips when introducing interval training into your exercise regime, always warm-up, start off slowly (1 session a week) and increase the number of sessions and the intensity as your body become stronger, keep a steady pace throughout the session and watch your heart rate for the high and low intensity zones. Always push yourself and you’ll see a vast improvement with your training and fitness before too long, and always speak with a professional if you need advice for your training program.

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