Two common complaints about working out are “I’m not seeing the results quick enough” and “I don’t want to spend hours at a time exercising.” There’s nothing worse than being faithful to a routine and losing weight slowly or not at all. The problem is, many people’s idea of climbing the stairmaster for 45 minutes while reading Twilight is simply a waste of time for two reasons: you aren’t working hard enough if you can read a book while exercising, and 45 minutes of moderate intensity is a nice thought, but the body needs more. Interval training is a satisfying solution to both of these problems.
Interval training has gained a lot of popularity lately, even though the most effective exercise, even if you aren’t doing a set interval routine, is 45 minutes to an hour of increasing and decreasing heart rate, not just a steady beats per minute. Interval workouts are a great addition to your routine and a good way to train yourself to be effective with each workout.
Simply put, interval training means alternating between high intensity bursts and lower, active recovery throughout the entire workout. Not only do you burn more calories, but in a recent article in Men’s Health they remind us of the bonus: you burn more calories long after you’ve had your shower and gone on with your day. Because of the high intensity bursts your body goes into anaerobic mode (working without oxygen) for seconds at a time, causing your body to work harder during the recovery phases to restore the oxygen and convert stored carbohydrates to energy. You can only work in anaerobic mode for brief periods of about 15 seconds to 2 minutes since your body is performing without using oxygen.
The American Council on Exercise recommends using intervals to increase the intensity of your workouts without burning yourself out. Interval workouts are better for many reasons including calorie burn, than a slow endurance workout such as spending 45 minutes on the treadmill at the same speed. Even if you’re a beginner, Mayo Clinic recommends using intervals with simple activities like walking: alternating leisurely walking with periods of faster walking is a novice workout that if you desire can gradually lead to jogging/walking, running/jogging, and even sprinting/running.
Still not convinced? Consider the findings from a study at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Group A rode a stationary bike for 20 minutes, alternating between 12 second gentle peddling and 8 second sprint peddling while group B pedaled at a steady pace for 40 minutes. They found group A lost 6 more pounds of body fat over the four month study even though they exercised for half the time.
When re-thinking your current routine, you may be pleasantly surprised that you are spending more time than you need on your cardio. You can trade in your 45 minute routine for a 20 minute major sweat session and if you stick to it, you will find yourself gaining overall endurance and even confidence from the new results you'll see.
For interval training ideas, check out my article Simple ways to incorporate interval training.