Interval Training

Interval Training involves alternating between high intensity activity and low intensity activity (recovery periods). This causes your heart rate to fluctuate and as a result your body will burn more calories. You may often hear the term ‘circuit training’ associated with interval training. Circuit training is a specific sequence of exercises performed in such a manner as to improve strength and conditioning. Circuits can include strength and resistance exercises that target the heart rate which allows your body to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time.

Don’t worry if this doesn’t all make sense to you. Get the basic concepts, talk to people, ask questions, and try new things. One of the keys to fitness and nutrition is variety. Our mind and bodies get bored when we do the same thing over and over and over again – this often results in plateaus where progress stagnates. Spice it up by trying new foods and new work-outs.

Simplifed

  • Interval Training (cardio) = alternating high and low intensity
  • Circuit Training (cardio + weight) = specific sequence of exercises

How Interval Training Works

Interval training utilizes the body’s two energy-producing systems: the aerobic and anaerobic. During low-intensity effort, the aerobic system uses oxygen to convert carbohydrates from the body into energy. During the high intensity effort, the anaerobic system uses the energy stored in the muscles (glycogen) for short bursts of activity. Anaerobic metabolism works without oxygen. The by-product is lactic acid, which is related to the burning sensation felt in the muscles during high intensity effort. During the high intensity interval, lactic acid builds and the athlete enters oxygen debt. During the recovery phase the heart and lungs work together to “pay back” this oxygen debt and bread down the lactic acid. It is in this phase that the aerobic system is in control, using oxygen to convert stored carbohydrates into energy.

The Benefits of Interval Training

This repetitive form of training leads to the adaptation response. The body begins to build new capillaries, and is better able to take in and deliver oxygen to the working muscles. Muscles develop a higher tolerance to the build-up of lactate, and the heart muscle is strengthened. These changes result in improved performance particularly within the cardiovascular system.

Interval training also helps prevent the injuries often associated with repetitive endurance exercise, and they allow you to increase your training intensity without over-training or burn-out. In this way, adding intervals to your workout routine is a good way to cross train.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, more calories are burned in short, high intensity exercise. If you are counting calories burned, high intensity exercise such as intervals are better than long, slow endurance exercise.

You don’t need to be a world-class athlete and have sophisticated blood analysis to take advantage of the benefits of interval training.  Pay attention to how you feel and set your intensity and duration accordingly.

Excerpt from - Interval Training Builds Fitness Fast, by: Elizabeth Quinn, About.com

Stairmaster Interval Routine

From: FITNESS-Rx magazine, February 2008

I like to do this routine on the stair-mill on my cross-training days. Choose the manual setting on your machine. Some stair-climber brands have a 1-10 speed setting while others display 1-20. This routine is based on a 1-10 scale, so if your machine is different you will need to adjust the speed.

Running Time (min.)

Speed (1-10 scale)

Task

Duration (min.)

0-5

3

Warm-up with easy stepping

5

5-7

4

Fire the engine

2

7-8

8

Sprint

1

8-9

2

Recover

1

9-11

8

Sprint

2

11-12

2

Recover

1

12-16

8

Sprint

4

16-17

2

Recover

1

17-23

8

Sprint

6

23-25

2

Recover with easy stepping

2

Routine: Interval Training – Sprints & Hills

More Interval Training Routines from about.com

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