Interval Training Yields Great Results

If you are in good shape already and want to improve your aerobic capacity and complete your workout in less time, interval training is a good option. Be ready to sweat, though!

Some years ago, I learned about interval training and applied it, and in the new year I plan to start doing it again. Basically, it is an approach to exercise that involves short bursts of effort followed by medium-effort recovery time.

If you have a healthy heart, have no joint problems, are not over age 60—and your physician says it’s OK—interval training could be for you. All those caveats are in order because interval training taxes your body, but the payoff is that you get in even better shape, and in less time. I mean you can be done with a training session in about 15 or 20 minutes and get a very beneficial workout.

Long-distance runners, football players, and other athletes have known of and used interval training for a long time. Runners might go 800 meters at near-capacity effort and then jog or walk briskly back to the starting point (a minute or two duration) and then dash the 800 meters again at nearly full tilt; and complete several repetitions in that manner. The bursts of effort followed by a brief period of recovery time strengthen the cardiovascular system and accelerate metabolism.

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The pattern for interval training (at least, as I practice it), is to have a warm-up period of about 5 minutes that entails walking. Then I follow a pattern of running for a minute and then jogging for a minute until I have completed about 6 repetitions. So, I run fast for 1 minute; then jog for 1 minute; then run fast for 1 minute; and so on. After completing those repetitions, I conclude my workout with a 5-minute cool-down, which entails a walk that slowly tapers in effort. My (layperson) understanding is that one should never engage in strenuous exercise and simply stop without at least a 5-minute cool down; otherwise, blood pools in the heart, and this is not good for you. Therefore, a gradual return to a normal heart rate is what is needed.

What I described is my preferred pattern (and is something I read from a fitness expert), and it works for me. However, you may want to study potential interval training patterns in exercise literature. Your approach may be determined by what you hope to accomplish, such as, say, training for a triathalon or improving your performance in certain sports—or perhaps getting in top-notch shape faster than you would using the usual sustained moderate pace with which most people approach their exercise sessions.

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Interval training can be done by running, cycling, rowing, or swimming, for example. Varying the form of exercise will keep your body from growing accustomed to the workout, so to speak, and thus provide you with better results. Different forms of exercise will work different muscles, and so the variation is desirable. Exercise and take good care! And God bless you!

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