Fit&Happier Workout of the Month: Interval Training

Fit&Happier Workout of the Month defined:  These are 30 minute general fitness workouts designed to offer a complete and balanced approach to strength and cardiovascular training in the most efficient way possible.  Strength training workouts will each feature a different form of resistance, or load, so that you can choose the type of resistance based on equipment availability and your preference.  These will offer full-body strength training and muscle toning with base exercises appropriate for beginners and progressions for those more experienced in strength training.  Cardio workouts are designed to get the most calorie burn possible in the time allotted.  Combo workouts combine strength and cardio training into one, efficient, full-body, calorie-burning workout.  All workouts conclude with flexibility training as no workout is complete without it.  Click on the exercises to link to step-by-step written and video instructions provided by ACE Fitness.


The What & Why of Interval Training

Sometimes fitness terminology can be intimidating to the novice exerciser.  But don’t let interval training scare you into avoidance.  The concept is really very simple.  Interval training refers to a specific way to perform a cardiovascular workout.

When most people envision a traditional cardio workout – walking, running, cycling, rowing, swimming or elliptical training – they imagine a steady state workout.  The exerciser selects a set pace and goes at that pace for a certain distance or amount of time.  Interval training uses a ratio of two different paces – the work pace and the recovery pace.  The work phase is a pace above what the exerciser can perform at steady state – a vigorous pace.  The recovery phase is a pace at or just slightly below the exerciser’s steady state pace – in the moderate range.

The interval is represented as a ratio – work:recovery.  The most common interval training ratio is 1:4 using minutes.  Meaning you perform one minute at your work (vigorous) pace and four minutes at your recovery (moderate) pace.  In this case, each interval takes a total of five minutes.  If you perform six full intervals at this ratio, your workout will be 30 minutes in length.

But what is the point of interval training?  Why not simply jog for 30 minutes at a steady state pace?  The answer is exercise science has taught us that interval training is superior to steady state training if you have one or more of the following fitness goals:

  • Increase Total Calorie Burn: If you have weight-loss goals, interval training is your friend.  Exercise studies have proven over and over again that one burns more calories during and after an interval workout as compared to a steady state workout of the same length of time.
  • Increase Steady State Speed or Transition from Walking to Running: Before interval training was used by exercise newbies for extra calorie burn, it was used by endurance athletes as part of their weekly regimen to increase their race speeds over time.  The small doses of a faster pace during an interval workout teaches the body to adapt to the faster pace as the work intervals lengthen and the recovery intervals shorten over time.  With the recent explosion of amateur endurance races, more and more marathoners and triathletes are using interval training to better their race day speeds.  And many avid walkers have become avid runners by using interval training techniques.
  • Increase Cardiovascular Endurance: In addition to increasing one’s speed, interval training also teaches the body to adapt to endurance stressors and the cardiovascular system responds in kind, taking in more oxygen and running more efficiently.  This allows the endurance athlete to not only increase her speed but go for longer periods of time at that speed.
  • Guard Against Exercise Ruts: Let’s face it, steady state cardiovascular training, particularly if being performed on a machine, can get boring.  Interval training is a great way to change it up while giving you the added bonuses of increased speed, endurance and calorie burn.

Interval Workout

Warm-Up: Go at a slow to moderate pace, gradually building up speed for a total of 3-10 minutes before heading into your first interval.

Intervals: Select a unit of measurement.  Minutes are commonly used.  Most sports watches and many fitness apps have an interval training option to help you keep track.  But, it doesn’t have to be a length of time.  You could choose distance intervals (meters or yards) on a machine or laps on a track or in a pool.  It is recommended, no matter what unit of measurement you choose, to always begin interval training at a 1:4 ratio.  How you progress your intervals over time depends upon your fitness goals:

  • Weight-loss & Increase Speed: Let’s assume our exerciser has been doing six 1:4 minute intervals for 30 minutes and is now ready to progress.  Her new ratio is 1:3.  Now that it’s a total of 4 minutes she’ll be completing more intervals – 7 or 8 in a 30 minute period instead of six.  The next progression would be 10 interval bouts at a 1:2 ratio.  Then 15 interval bouts at a 1:1 ratio.  After that, she should return to a 1:4 ratio but she’ll increase the unit of measurement, and so on.
  • Increase Endurance: Now let’s assume our example exerciser from above wants to also increase her endurance.  In this case, she’ll switch between increasing total workout time and progressing her interval ratio. First, she’ll add one or two interval bouts at the same 1:4 ratio, making her total workout time 35 or 40 minutes.  When she has reached her maximum workout time (or distance) goal, let’s say 90 minutes, she’ll return to a 30 minute workout at a 1:3 ratio and gradually increase her total workout time to 90 minutes again.  The next progression would be a 1:2 ratio, then 1:1 ratio, and so on.
Cool-Down: Always allow for proper cool-down, gradually slowing your pace, to normalize your heart rate and prepare your body for necessary stretching.  A cool-down should last between three and ten minutes.
Stretching: No workout is complete without stretching all the major muscle groups worked during the training program.  Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.  For examples of stretches, click on your training discipline under “Activity Specific Workouts of the Month” below and scroll down to the flexibility training portion of the workout.
Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Previous Fit&Happier Workouts of the Month – January: Body Weight Strength Training; February: Resistance Band Strength Training; March: Free Weight Strength Training; April: Medicine Ball Strength Training; May: Strength Training with Stability Ball; June: Strength & Balance Training; July: Functional Training

Check back for these upcoming Fit&Happier Workouts of the Month – September: Schoolyard Play Workout (Combo); October: Outdoor Cardio & Strength Combo; November: Timed Circuit (Combo); December: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training-Cardio)

Click on the link to view previous Activity-Specific Workouts of the Month: Hockey & Cross-Country Skiing, Snowboarding & Figure Skating, Golf & Softball, Distance Running, Racquet Sports, Swimming, Waterskiing & Surfing, Cycling, Rowing & Desk Jockeys, Track, Field & Court Sports, Throwing & Pitching, Dancing, Downhill Skiing

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