I can’t tell you how often I’ve brought up interval training since I started this blog almost 3 years ago. The stuff really works if you’re trying to blast body fat. Studies have even shown that high intensity interval training actually burns more fat than steady cardio. The reason is because during interval training you not only burn calories while you’re doing intervals, but your metabolism remains elevated after your workout which allows your body to continue burning calories at a faster rate for the next 24-48 hours.
What Is Interval Training?
Interval training is simply a type of fitness training that involves high intensity intervals followed immediately by a low intensity recovery period. Interval training can be done at various intensities but the point is that you’re alternating between fast and slow intervals during the actual workout.
According to fitness expert Craig Ballantyne, high intensity interval training (HIIT) is typically 0 to 90 seconds of high intensity activity (short bursts) followed by 1 to 3 minutes of a very low intensity recovery period. A common ratio used is 1:2. (60 seconds high intensity, 120 seconds low intensity) In order to get through a HIIT workout you need the recovery periods. If you don’t recover properly you won’t be able to finish your high intensity intervals at well, a high intensity. For high intensity purposes you only need to do about 6 intervals – each with its own recovery period. You can easily play around with the number of intervals and the length of time for each.
Interval training can be incorporated into just about any kind of physical activity you can think of. To keep things simple, I’ll use walking as an example. Even if you’re a complete beginner you can begin to do interval training.
Here’s an example interval training walking workout for beginners:
- Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes (3.3 mph)
- Walk at 3.7 mph for 1 minute
- Walk at 3.3 mph for 2 minutes
- Repeat intervals 6 times
- Cool down for 5 to 10 minutes (3.3 mph)
As you get used to interval training be sure to pick up the speed and intensity of your workouts. You might need to walk at first, but soon you’ll be able to jog through your high intensity intervals and then as you get more advanced you can try sprinting.
This is a recent HIIT treadmill workout that I did:
- Warm up with brisk walking
- Sprint at 8 mph for 1 minute
- Walk at 3.5 mph for 2 minutes
- Repeat 6 times
- Cool down
Walking is just one type of activity where you can implement interval training. You can also do interval training while swimming, biking, rowing and even weight lifting. If you aren’t sure how to track your intervals, I recommend a Gymboss interval timer. I have two of them now and they’re pretty handy.
Benefits of Interval Training
There are a number of benefits that you can get from interval training. The main reason why people love it so much (including myself) is because it burns fat in a short period of time. You don’t need to keep your heart rate up for 30 straight minutes in order to burn fat. (Heard of the fat burning zone myth?) And…just because your heart rate is at 160 and another person’s is at 130 doesn’t mean that you’re burning more fat than they are either. Other benefits of interval training include an elevated metabolism, an increase in endurance and muscle density, lower stress levels and no gym equipment is required.
How Often Should Interval Training Be Performed?
Interval training only needs to be performed 2, maybe 3 days per week. If you can do HIIT 6 days a week then you aren’t working hard enough! Ideally, you shouldn’t perform HIIT on consecutive days because your muscles need time to recover and rebuild.
To summarize, interval training:
- Prevents boredom and burnout
- Is very effective for burning fat
- Improves strength, overall fitness and heart health
- Can be incorporated into any physical activity
- Has so many variables that can be changed to keep workouts exciting and fun
- Doesn’t require special equipment
If you haven’t tried interval training yet it’s definitely something to consider. It’s perfect for those looking to save time and still get amazing fat loss results. Craig Ballantyne (Men’s Health expert and author) created the Turbulence Training program for those interested in fat loss workouts that involve interval training. Just remember that you should be working very hard during your high intensity interval and allowing yourself to recover during the recovery period. Walking IS okay!
University Of Guelph (2007, June 29). Interval Training Burns More Fat, Increases Fitness, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 14, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070627140103.htm.