You’re about to lace up your running shoes, throw on your swimsuit or get on your bike. But in the same 30 minutes or so you can try a challenging new workout with interval training.
It’s a fabulous fat-burning workout that involves peppering your regular workout with short, strenuous bursts that keep your heart rate up and burn more calories. Not only does interval training boost your fitness level by nudging you out of your comfort level, it also spices up your workout. You simply take the pattern—repeated bursts of strenuous activity followed by low-intensity recovery periods—and weave it into any program.
Caution: Intervals aren’t for everyone. Don’t do intervals if you have a heart condition, high blood pressure, a joint injury, are pregnant, have been advised by your physician to stick with moderate-intensity exercise or have just begun a fitness program. If you are uncertain, check with your physician before stepping up the pace of your workout.
• First, only 1 of your workouts per week should include intervals.
• Second, go gradually and be patient with yourself. You’re going to love what intervals do for your workouts and your fitness level, but the first few times won’t be easy.
• Third, you need to determine what qualifies as recovery and interval paces.
Recovery, the low-intensity phase, occurs when your heart is working between 50 and 60 per cent of your maximum safe heart rate. If you don’t want to be constantly checking your pulse, be sure you are able to comfortably carry on a conversation while doing your activity. Your recovery time should be twice as long as the interval. So if your high-intensity segment is 1 minute, the low-intensity segment is 2 minutes.
During an interval, which is your high-intensity segment, you should be working at 75 to 85 per cent of your maximum safe heart rate, or be finding it very difficult to talk (but not impossible). Never go over 85 per cent.
Now try these fun ways of working intervals into your favourite exercise:
Walking or Running
Within your workout, alternate 30-second bursts of fast walking or running with 1-minute recovery sessions. Start with 4 repetitions.
• Hills are great interval tools: walk briskly up a hill and recover going down. Or use lampposts or telephone poles: walk or run at your fast pace from the first to the second and go at your slower pace from the second to fourth. Repeat 3 more times.
WALKERS: Begin with a warm-up of 3 minutes at 3 m.p.h. Then do 4 reps of 2 minutes at 4 m.p.h. (or whatever speed achieves 75 to 85 per cent of your maximum safe heart rate) followed by 4 minutes at 3 m.p.h. Cool down.
RUNNERS: Warm up for 3 minutes at 5 m.p.h. Then do 4 reps of 1 minute at 6 m.p.h. followed by 2 minutes at 5 m.p.h. Cool down. As you progress, boost the incline or add more intervals.
Within your workout, use laps as your intervals. Try 4 reps of 1 fast lap followed by 2 slow laps.
• Or you can rest and watch the clock instead of swimming during the recovery. Try 4 intervals of 50 metres with a 20-second rest in between each interval.
Unless you’re on a track, it’s hard to go full out when you’re biking outdoors. Instead try a hilly route once a week.
• On a stationary bike, maintaining 80 r.p.m., warm up for 3 minutes at low-medium resistance. Then cycle for 2 minutes at high resistance followed by 4 minutes at medium resistance. Repeat 3 more times. Cool down with another 3 minutes at low-medium resistance.