Take the Interval Training Challenge

If you've been exercising consistently for a few months, are starting to get a little bored with your workout, and are noticing that you aren't getting the same results that you used to, then it may be time for you to consider ''interval training''.

This kind of workout will challenge your body in a way that regular continuous type workouts cannot and allow you to burn a greater amount of calories in the same amount of time.

What is interval training?
Interval training alternates brief periods of high-intensity work with low intensity recovery periods. The intensity portion is known as the work interval while the low intensity part is the recovery interval. An example would be to run as fast as you can for 60 to 90 seconds then walk briskly for one to two minutes. This is called one cycle or one repetition. You repeat as many cycles of work and recovery intervals as you need to complete your workout.

Aerobic and anaerobic.
Interval training trains both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. Aerobics is steady and continuous while anaerobic exercise is short quick bursts of power and speed. Walking or jogging at a pace that you can comfortably continue for fifteen to twenty minutes is aerobic exercise and running or sprinting as fast as you can for 30 seconds to three minutes is anaerobic exercise.

Improves athletic performance.
Interval training was the brainchild of Dr. Woldemer Gerschler of Germany who pioneered the method in the 1930's. His premise was that an athlete could exercise at more intense levels if he or she was given intervals of rest to recover. In other words, high intensity in small tolerable doses.

Interval training enhances sports performance because it mimics the way the heart and muscles have to work in sports of a stop-and-go nature like soccer and basketball. Interval training also benefits endurance sports like long distance running and cycling because the athletes need quick bursts of speed to break away from the pack or to beat an opponent to the finish line.

What can interval training do for you?
For the average fit person, interval training is a way of burning more calories and doing a higher intensity of work without "dying" in the process. Since you can recover between the more strenuous portions, you can continue for a longer time than if you were working out at a high intensity continuously.

Research has also shown that interval training encourages a longer "after-burn". This refers to the period after exercise when the metabolism remains at a higher rate. A 1996 University of Alabama study found an increase of 160 calories during the 24 hours after high intensity interval training. Moderate continuous exercise will raise metabolism only for a few hours after.

Interval training is not better than continuous aerobics.
Just like a hammer is not better than a screwdriver because they have different functions, both types of workout have a place in your exercise program. Most experts recommend doing high-intensity interval training only two to three times a week at most because it is very strenuous and taxing. Fill in the rest of your program with low to moderate intensity continuous exercise to avoid burnout and overuse injury.

Can interval training be done by beginners?
High intensity interval training is definitely not the place for beginners to start. It is safer to begin with low intensity continuous aerobic exercise and gradually build stamina and endurance.

However, since interval training can be loosely interpreted as simply intervals of higher and lower intensity, it can applied to anybody from the unfit to the very fit by modifying the levels of intensity.

Using the example of walking, jogging, and running, here are different levels of interval training with the work interval first, followed by the recovery interval.
· Level One: Brisk walk - Easy walk.
· Level Two: Jog - Brisk walk.
· Level Three: Run - Jog.
· Level Four: Sprint - Jog-Run.

Except at the lowest level, interval training is not appropriate for people with orthopedic problems (lower back, knees, ankles), heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. Low to moderate intensity continuous exercise is a safer option for people with these special problems.

Judging intensity.
Low intensity means you could carry on a full-length conversation indefinitely. Moderate intensity is when you are breathing hard but you can still talk comfortably. High intensity means you are breathing hard and can barely get out a few words at a time.

Make you own interval program.
Interval training can be applied to any activity - walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming, roller blading, rowing, dancing, etc. There are many different formulas to choose from but the rule of thumb is that the more intense the work interval the shorter it will be. An example of a "short" interval is 10-seconds work, 30-seconds rest and a "long" interval is one-minute work, two-minutes rest. The point is to raise and lower intensity in regular intervals and repeat the cycle as many times as you want for your workout.

Another variation is to combine aerobics and strength training. It can be done in two ways. The first is to use high intensity aerobic exercise as the work interval and light weight training to recover. This is a popular format in group exercise classes. The second way is to lift heavy weights for your work interval and do low to moderate intensity aerobic exercise as the recovery period.

Interval training made easy.
If you work out in a gym with electronic cardio machines, take advantage of the different interval training formats that are built in the machines. No need to time your intervals because the machine does it for you. The better quality brands offer varying levels of interval training for novice to advanced exercisers

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