Is lack of time an an obstacle preventing you from maintaining a regular workout routine? If so, you are not alone.
While “lack of time” may be a convenient excuse for some, others truly are time-challenged as they try to fit exercise into their hectic home and work schedules. If you fall into that category or are someone who is simply looking to shake-up your current fitness routine, interval training may become your new best friend!
How Does Interval Training Work?
The concept behind interval training is quite simple: by breaking down an exercise session into short segments that alternate higher intensity work with a rest period in-between, you can get in a very effective workout in a fraction of the time.
Guess What?! Interval Training Burns More Fat In Less Time.
Several studies have confirmed that exercising in shorter bursts with rest periods in between burns more fat than exercising continuously for an entire session. This holds true even when the session is not done at an extremely high intensity. Interval training is also a proven way to boost your metabolism and get the “after burn” effect. The body’s ability to burn calories at a higher rate in the hours AFTER your workout.
Interval training can be incorporated into many different types of workouts, anything from traditional cardiovascular exercises such as walking, running, biking, rowing, etc. all the way to strength-based activities such as jumping, lifting, etc..
HIIT vs. LIIT
While most of today’s interval training programs are based on the popular HIIT (high intensity interval training) method, beginning exercisers and those new to interval training can benefit more from LIIT (lower intensity interval training).
Jumping directly into high intensity training program can be very risky for those not quite prepared for it. So I highly suggest introducing your body to a period of lower intensity intervals first, with the goal in mind to eventually progress to being able to add in some higher intensity workouts.
Here’s an example of a basic LIIT training program:
15 seconds of work followed by 45 seconds of active recovery for 8-10 rounds.
The “work” in this case could be just about anything that challenges your body and elevates your heart rate. Biking at a fast pace or against a higher resistance, running/sprinting outside or on a treadmill, or bodyweight activities such as jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers, etc.
The “active recovery” would be things such as biking at a very easy pace, a slow jog or walk.
Even at a lower intensity, the goal is to push yourself for those 15 seconds before getting in 45 seconds of recovery. Think of it as spiking the heart rate up for the work period and then letting it come back down during the recovery period.
When the time is right to up the intensity of your intervals, it’s simply a matter of changing one of the training variables. Maybe you might want to try increasing your “work” to 30 seconds and dropping your “active recovery” to 30 seconds. Or perhaps you’ll want a more challenging activity such as stair runs, hill sprints, or kettlebell swings.
Again, the concept is very simple, just be sure to start at a point that is appropriate for you and then gradually progress to more challenging workouts as your body acclimates.
Are There Risks Involved With Interval Training?
Before diving head-first into any type of a workout program, participants should know the risks that might be involved. In the case of interval training, here are a few of the more common things to be aware of.
Joint strains/muscle pulls:
Interval training can place some extra demands on the body, especially when it comes to HIIT. Always be sure to start a workout session with a thorough warm-up to better prepare the body for the demands of the activity. When it comes to my own interval training workouts, the warm-up often lasts longer than the actual workout!
Also, be sure to save some time for a proper cool down. This could simply be an expended “active recovery” like walking or biking at an easy pace or some flexibility/mobility work. Regardless of what you choose, be sure your heart rate has had proper time to come back down and you are breathing normal.
Development of over-use injuries:
Always keep in mind that variety is important to a well-rounded exercise routine. Doing the same things over and over will eventually lead to an over-use injury. Interval training is not an every-day activity….be sure to allow for proper rest and recovery between workouts. Ideally, intervals should be done no more than 2-3 days/week in conjunction with other activities such as weight training, flexibility/mobility, and steady state cardio.
Increased risk of over-training:
Because of its demands, HIIT can sometimes lead to over-training in those who do not allow for proper rest/recovery time. Symptoms to look out for with over-training include messed-up sleep patterns, fatigue, chronic achiness, increased number of colds, and nagging injuries. By scheduling regular rest/recovery days and alternating higher intensity workout days with lighter workout days, you’ll avoid the potential risk of over-training.
With the many benefits associated with interval training, I highly suggest everyone try to incorporate them into their regular routine. Be smart (warm-up, cool-down), choose activities you enjoy, and have fun with the challenge that intervals provide!
Get the infographic for the best HIIT Treadmill Workout:
About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.