Level Up Your Workout with Interval Training

Published on: 21/07/2021

Previously considered an elite form of workout, interval training has developed into a useful tool even for average people. It offers different levels of difficulty and can add variety to your exercise routine.

If you are looking for ways to switch up your workout routine and burn more calories, you might want to consider aerobic interval training — a type of exercise that is occasionally referred to as high-intensity interval training (HIIT). 

Interval training has previously been thought of as a domain of elite athletes, but it has now evolved into a highly effective tool for the average person as well.

What is Interval Training?

Interval training is essentially a workout that alternates short bursts of intense activity (about 30 seconds) with longer intervals of less intense exercises (about one to two minutes).

For example, if your preferred form of exercise is walking and you are in good shape, you could incorporate brief bursts of jogging into your regular brisk walks. If you're less fit, you can alternate between periods of leisurely walking and faster walking. 

The Benefits of Interval Training

Interval training is based on the principle of adaptation. This simply implies that the repeated practice of a skill or activity helps us develop muscle memory and makes it easier to perform.

Interval training results in a variety of physiological changes, including an increase in cardiovascular efficiency (the ability of the heart to deliver oxygen to the working muscles) and a greater tolerance for lactic acid build-up. These, in turn, will give you increased performance, speed, and endurance.

Additional benefits include the following:

  • Burns more calories -  Each time you increase the intensity of your workout  (even for just a few minutes at a time) you will still burn more calories than your regular exercise routine.
  • More time-efficient - Interval training allows you to get a good workout in a shorter amount of time than a regular aerobic workout. So if you are used to working out for 40 minutes, you could complete interval training in 15 to 20 minutes or less.
  • No special equipment needed - Whether you are walking, biking, running, or swimming, you can perform interval training. You may also use an elliptical trainer, treadmill, or exercise bike for your workouts. Meanwhile, jumping jacks, squats, and lunges are examples of body-weight movements that can be used in interval training.
  • Reduces workout boredom - With the added intensity, you also add variety to your workout routine.

Keeping Your Interval Training Safe

It is important to bear in mind that interval training puts a lot of strain on your heart, lungs, and muscles. Therefore, it is crucial to get your doctor's approval before you begin this type of workout. In addition, you should already have a strong foundation of overall aerobic fitness before you engage in any form of high-intensity exercise. 

Here are some more points to consider:

  • Examine your current fitness level and set training targets that are within your reach.
  • Throughout your interval training, maintain a steady yet demanding pace. 
  • Begin slowly. Keep in mind that longer intervals provide better outcomes. For example, walk for two minutes and then run for two minutes.
  • To ensure an even effort, train on a smooth, flat surface.
  • Make sure to do warm-up exercises.

Prior to creating an interval training program, it is also recommended that you meet with an athletic trainer, coach, or personal trainer for proper guidance.

Building Your Interval Workout

When creating an interval training program, there are four variables you can play with:

  • Workout interval duration (distance or time)
  • Intervals of rest 
  • Intervals of workout intensity (speed)
  • Number of times each interval is repeated

To further level it up, you can also opt for anaerobic or High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). In this type of interval training, the work interval is performed at maximum effort, bringing your heart rate to between 85 and 100% of your maximum heart rate. For this, you can perform any cardio activity that raises your heart rate to the anaerobic zone, such as running or cycling. These workouts are typically shorter in duration due to their intensity — often lasting less than 20 minutes following a warm-up.

Ultimately, interval training can add variety to your workouts and can help you achieve a higher level of fitness and performance. Go ahead and include a few interval workouts in your weekly schedule, just make sure to allow time for recovery in between.