Interval Training is one of those types of workouts that promises amazing results and actually lives up to the hype. We’ve all experienced too many scams in the fitness world, from workouts that promise to get rid of belly fat to diet pills that promise to make you skinny in a month (but don’t tell you that you’ll gain it all back, plus some). You don’t have to worry about falling for a scam with interval training, its benefits have been proven time and time again. And I’m not just writing from an academic perspective – interval training has had a HUGE impact on how I approach fitness. So without further ado, here’s the what, how, and why of interval training.
What is interval training? – Since it’s a relatively new type of workout, you may never have even heard of it. Let me be the first to enlighten you. In short, interval training is where you perform a given exercise at 70-80% of your max effort for a short period of time, rest briefly, then repeat for a given number of minutes or rounds. For instance, in Tabata workouts (a type of interval training), you perform a given exercise at near max effort for 20 seconds, rest for 10, and repeat for a total of 8 rounds (4 minutes). Sound a little crazy or weird? Keep reading, the benefits of this kind of training are incredible.
Why would you do such a thing? – The reasons are really endless, but here are a few of the most common reasons people switch to interval training.
- To lose weight without losing muscle. Too often, traditional cardio workouts (e.g. running on a treadmill for an hour) cause you to progressively lose muscle, which leads to all kinds of problems. A healthy body is strong, and a fit body has defined muscles that perform when you put them to the test. (Don’t worry ladies, I’m not talking about manly or bodybuilder muscles, I mean strong but lean, feminine muscle). Muscles burn fat even while you are at rest so it’s crucial to build or maintain strength while you work towards fat loss. To sum it up, weight loss should be fat loss, not muscle loss, and interval training holds up to that standard.
- As an alternative to long, boring cardio workouts. Let’s be honest here. What is one of the toughest parts of getting through a long run or cycling routine? Boredom. After a certain point your brain is kinda like, “Hey when are we gonna do something different… More cardio? Heck no! Stop or we will die!!!” Or at least mine sounds like that lol. Thankfully, interval training is a great way to completely get rid of the boredom factor because you have to constantly be on your toes and paying attention, which makes the time fly by. With interval training you can also get away with doing a shorter workout without sacrificing results. Because of the short bursts of work and rest of interval workouts, your metabolism gets a much stronger boost than with steady state cardio (long bouts of cardio at the same pace). That way your body will continue burning fat long after your actual workout is done. So in short, interval workouts keep your mind engaged, which prevents boredom, and are more effective than other types of cardio, which means you can do a shorter workout and still get amazing results. Pretty cool, huh?
- The variety ensures you never plateau in your progress. One of the most common complaints about steady state cardio workouts is that people lose weight for awhile, then eventually plateau and stop making much progress at all. Or worse, they start gaining the weight back. This isn’t surprising because if you think about it, our bodies are designed to adapt. If you do the same thing over and over eventually the body stops feeling the need to improve because it gets used to your routine. To make continuous progress, you have to change things up once in awhile. With interval training that never becomes a problem because there is constant variety. Your body never gets the chance to adapt because one second you are asking it to work really hard, and the next it gets to rest. Not to mention the fact that if you change the actual exercises you do for intervals there is no way you can plateau (unless you have an underlying condition).
- To develop a toned, lean, and capable physique. Ultimately, the goal of every person devoted to their fitness is to create a body that looks good and performs well under pressure. Interval training is a great way to achieve both. Ladies, it is especially great for you because you don’t have to worry about developing bulky muscles. You will instead develop lean, strong muscles that give you confidence that your body is strong and capable. If weight loss is one of your goals, interval training allows you to simultaneously build lean muscles and burn the fat that is covering them so they are visible (this is what it really means to “tone up” by the way – to burn fat off muscles so they are more visible).
- Runners, listen up. I was able to take 2 minutes off my mile through interval and strength training alone. I promise this works to build crazy endurance as well as, if not better than, traditional running.
So really, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying interval training. If you are a beginner, I recommend you star with a 1:2 ratio, where you rest twice as long as you work (example: jump rope for 1 minute and rest for 2, or do sit-ups for 30 seconds and rest for a minute). As you get stronger and fitter you will be able to get down to a 2:1 ratio where you work twice as long as you rest.
If you work out at home, I really recommend doing FitnessBlender’s videos. They have options for every fitness level and their workouts are structured perfectly to get you whatever results you are looking for. They are the first workout program I did that actually worked and got me hooked on working out. Almost all their workouts are structured as interval training.
If you are in pretty good shape, I recommend trying a couple Tabata workouts to get you started.
The video below is an example of a CrossFit athlete doing a Tabata workout, just to give you an idea of how it is structured. You can use any exercises you want for intervals, and don’t worry, you won’t necessarily end up looking like the girl in the video. She also does a ton of weightlifting and stuff to build more muscle mass. The video is just a good example of a Tabata workout 🙂
I hope this post has piqued your interest into interval training, and that you will give it a try. It is really one of the best types of training out there to get a wide variety of results. If you are interested in an interval training workout program that is personally customized for your needs/goals, please Contact Me. That is one of the things I specialize in as a health coach and I would love to help you get started 🙂 If you are interested you will want to get in touch with me asap as my rate is likely to be going up in the near future.
If you have any thoughts or questions, please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!