Friday, October 10, 2008

How To Get The Most From Your Interval Training

Yesterday, a member told me she planned to do 12 intervals on the treadmill. I usually follow Craig Ballantyne's recommendation of 6 intervals although, occasionally, I'll do a couple more. But 12? No way. I told my member that if she was capable of doing 12 intervals, she wasn't working hard enough.

The member explained that she wanted to increase the number of intervals because her previous session didn't feel like a good enough workout. That time, she ran at 5.5 mph for 35 seconds and and recovered for 85 seconds at 3.7 mph. I told her to slow her recovery speed down to 3.5 but to increase the challenging part to at least 6.0.

Later she reported that she ended up completing 8 intervals - running at 6.3 mph and recovering at 3.5 mph. There's no way she could have made it through 12 intervals at that intensity.

If you're thinking that you'd keel over trying to do that workout, it doesn't matter. The great thing about cardio intervals is that the intensity is relative to the individual exerciser. There are people for whom that workout would be far too easy and others who will never be able to work at that level.

It's about challenging yourself, not about competing with someone else.

If you're new to the concept of intervals, here's how to get started:

After a 5-10 minute warmup, increase the intensity to a level that’s higher than what you normally do. As you get acclimated to this method of training, you want the hard part of the interval to rank about 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. (If you're using a stationary bike, increase the resistance rather than pedaling wildly. Try to stay around 80-100 rpm.)

Maintain that level for 1 minute and then lower the intensity to about 3 out of 10 and recover for 1 minute.

If after a minute, you don’t feel prepared to increase the intensity again, simply extend your recovery time. You can do 60 seconds hard paired with 60, 90 or 120 seconds recovery. As you progress, you can increase your intensity even more and perform 30 seconds hard and then recover. Personally, I found that 30 seconds easy is not long enough for adequate recovery at that intensity so I use a 60 or 90 second recovery time on those. Listen to your body.

There are no magic intervals lengths; I simply chose those above because they are easier to keep track of when using equipment. If you're doing a high intensity training session, I recommend keeping the challenging part of the interval to 1 minute or less. Going for 2 minutes or more during the hard part is considered aerobic intervals.

One interval consists of the intense portion plus the recovery time.

Try this at your next workout: Warm up, perform 4 or 5 intervals, then cool down. If you are going to do this type of workout on a day when you strength train, always do it after lifting. Change interval times and equipment regularly. Work up to 6 intervals total per session and do not do more than 3 (4, if you're an advanced exerciser) interval workouts per week.

If you're interested in better fat loss results...
If you want to continue burning more calories after your workout...
If you want to spend less time exercising...
If you want reduce your risk of repetitive motion injuries...

...give cardio intervals a try.



Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS said...

Great stuff, it is ALL about QUALITY, not QUANTITY.

Mickey said...

Hi CB,

I'm feeling like a star today. First I find a mention of me and NoPinkDumbbells on Tony Gentilcore's blog and now you and your 6 pack stop by. :-D

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