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Interval Training 101

March 10th, 2011 · 3 Comments ·


I have seen many types of runners in the gym. Some are like tortoises, they only walk on the treadmill. Some are like hares, racing impatiently at high intensity for short period of time before they stop. Others are running at medium pace at constant speed throughout the entire workout. If you fall into any of these groups, you may want to explore interval training. Read on to find out more.

Interval training is simply alternating bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity. It can also be high intensity exercise and followed by periods of rest. These higher and lower intensity periods are repeated few times to form a complete workout. The simple guidelines are:

  • The high intensity phase should be long and tough enough to make a person out of breadth, typically 1 to 4 minutes of exercise at 80 to 85 of your maximum heart rate.
  • Recovery phase should not be too long until your pulse return to its resting rate.

Let’s just talk about it in layman terms. Take jogging as example. You jog for five minutes and then run for three minutes. This training technique is normally practiced by long distance runners. An example could be 8 repetitions of 400 meters with a 200-meter of jog between each run. Coaches also tend to use this to train runners because it is effective in building a more well rounded runners.


Some of the benefits of interval trainings are:

  1. You will burn more calories. Because you increase the intensity of the activity, you will end up expend more calories.
  2. By exercise with more intensity, you improve your cardiovascular fitness. Your body will be trained to take in and deliver oxygen to the working muscles. It is good for your heart. Your muscles will also develop a higher tolerance for the build up of lactate.
  3. Exercising at the common intensity may be too boring for you assuming you jog or cycle at the same speed all this while. So, by exercise more vigorously, you find the boring activity more challenging.

You do not have to fix the interval training period. I doubt that there is any single accepted formula for the ratio between hard work and moderate pace of resting. As long as the principle of alternating low and high intensity remains the same (as I mentioned above), you can take the training to many levels. You can change the distance, speed and the length of recovery time (during your low intensity activity). However, if you are working toward a specific fitness goal like some of the professional athletes, you may want to take a more scientific approach. I have seen an experienced personal trainer designing an interval training for a gym goer who is training for marathon. He actually measured heart rate and paid attention to the intensity as well as the duration of each interval.


Tips For Interval Training

  • Though interval training looks easy, it may not be suitable for everyone. It is harder than you expect. Pushing your heart rate up can put a strain on the heart. So, if you just start exercising, you must be able to jog for half an hour for several months before you include interval training. You will not be able to jog and then run each for 5 minutes, and alternating these two activities for half an hour if you are not fit enough. People with high blood pressure or joint problems may not be suitable to do interval training.
  • Always warm up before you start interval training.
  • In general, longer intervals provide better results. For example, jog 2 minutes/run 2 minutes is better than jog 30 seconds/run 30 seconds.
  • While you may like interval training, you should still continue your conventional type of workout as part of your fitness regimen. In fact, you should not do interval training everyday because it may be too taxing for your body. You need to give your body enough time to recover.
  • Interval training is not restricted to jogging or running. It can be used in cycling and swimming too.

So, next time, instead of walking at 4.5 miles per hour (mph) for the entire hour, you can alternate 5 minutes of 4 mph and then jog at 3 minutes of 5.5 mph for your workout. Instead being a tortoise or hare, you combines the best of both and leaves little time for boredom.



Category: Health

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3 responses so far ↓
  • tmy // Mar 10, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    I’ve tried doing it on my own at the gym by pacing up on my eliptical machine to create a burst of cardio and slowing down and pacing up again..I dont know what difference does it make so far ..I guess I’m just not pushing it hard enough..

  • Zul // Mar 10, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    Indeed, interval training is good and would usually end up my gym work out on the thread mill, rotationally running at hi and low speed for 20 mins, and would sweat like crazy at the last 5 mins. I also love the intervals concept mentioned by Craig Ballantyne (of Turbulence Training) that we can easily combine heart pumping outdoor activities e.g. sprinting, jumping and some body weight workout routines.

  • Michael Hines // Mar 15, 2011 at 9:03 PM

    Hi there!

    Great post! I love interval training and believe it is the only true cardio out there that can deliver when it comes to burning calories!

    I normally run 3-4 times a week with doing 19-25 minutes of interval training. 5 minute warm up and then 4-5 intense sprints of a minute each followed by a minute rest. Then a cool down of 4-5 minutes.

    It works like a charm and although painful going through the intervals, so worth it! I am glad I came across this post because I don’t see many people talking about the importance of interval training!

    Thanks for the insight and I will be sure to come back for more.


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