We're more than halfway through the year already, and if you've been diligent in your fitness quest for 2014 you may be running into the boredom syndrome. No matter how effective your routine is, doing the same thing day after day can take its toll, both on your mind and on your body.
If you have consistently worked on your aerobic conditioning for at least 6 months, you may have noticed that the differences you saw initially, such as:
• Easier breathing
• More energy
• Weight loss
are not as noticeable anymore. You still feel good, but the improvements have slowed down. Maybe it’s time to “add a few hills”. What do I mean by that? When exercise routines remain constant, the rate of change decreases. By adding new things or changing the intensity of your current routine, more physical changes will be gained. One way to accomplish that needed change – interval training.
What Is Interval Training?
First of all, let’s define traditional aerobic training.
• Repeated, rhythmic motions of your large muscle groups over time.
Examples – outside walking, treadmill walking, elliptical machine, stationary bike
• Aerobic, which means it uses oxygen.
• Speed and intensity remain constant.
• Alternating short, high intensity bursts of speed with slower, recovery phases in a single workout.
• During the intense phases, it is anaerobic, which means it uses energy stored in the muscles (glycogen) instead of oxygen. As a result, lactic acid is generated from the muscles and you enter what is called “oxygen debt”. During the recovery phase, the heart and lungs work together to break down the lactic acid and convert it into energy.
• Just as athletes benefit by being able to work at a higher intensity without fatigue or pain, you also will benefit by gaining a new energy threshold.
What Are The Benefits For Me?
WORKOUT IN LESS TIME
One of the biggest benefits to interval training is shorter workouts. There are actually more cardio benefits to a 30 minute interval workout than an hour long walk.
SLOW THE AGING PROCESS
Our muscles need oxygen for fuel. As we age, however, our hearts beat slower and pump less blood to those muscles, and our lung capacity also decreases. What happens? We grow weaker and lose our stamina. Research has shown, though, that regular aerobic exercise can decrease biological age by 10 years or more. (Shephard 2008) When we increase the cell production in the blood, more energy is produced.
Interval training is one of the most effective ways to exercise at a high enough intensity to significantly increase oxygen demands and thus slow the aging process. (Wright &Perricelli 2008) As opposed to exercising at a constant pace, interval training, with its brief periods of high intensity, forces the body to adapt in ways that slow aging. Just as REST is important for the body to adapt, INTENSITY is the key ingredient to cause change. Both rest and intensity are the keys to interval training.
BURN MORE CALORIES
Higher intensity exercise causes the body’s metabolism to increase, thus causing it to burn calories at an increased rate even after the exercise session is completed.
SHOULD I DO HIGH INTENSITY EVERY TIME I EXERCISE?
No. At the most, do a high intensity routine 2 – 3 times a week. The other days, follow your regular aerobic routine.
WHAT WOULD BE A GOOD INTERVAL PROGRAM FOR ME?
Choose your favorite aerobic activity and introduce intervals into it.
Walking: Walk at a normal pace for a 10 minute warm up. Then, using a watch, pick up the pace and walk as fast as you can for 30 seconds to one minute. Cool down for the same amount of time at your normal pace. Repeat that sequence for at least 5 minutes. End with a 5 minute cool down at your normal pace.
Prefer the elliptical machine or a stationary bike? Warm up for 10 minutes at an easy resistance level. Then, increase the level by at least 3 for 30 seconds, followed by another increase of 3 for 30 seconds. Revert back to the second level for 30 seconds followed by another 30 seconds at the difficult level. Do this for at least 5 minutes. Always finish any workout by cooling down at an easy pace for at least 5 minutes.
HOW DO I FIND MY PROPER HEART RATE ZONE?
Use the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). On a scale of 1 through 10, 1 is how you feel sitting still while 10 is how you feel doing an activity that’s sustainable for only a few seconds. With interval training, your RPE during the difficult periods should vary from 6 to 8.
I’M NEW TO EXERCISING. IS INTERVAL TRAINING FOR ME?
Probably not. You need to establish an aerobic base before you add intensity. Make sure you have been doing aerobic exercise for at least 6 months before you undertake interval training.
If you have diagnosed heart problems, diabetes or obesity, check with your physician first.
With your physician’s okay, let a certified fitness professional design a safe program for you, one that can start where you are now and take you to that next, healthy level.
AND WHERE DO THE HILLS COME IN???
As a cyclist in the Texas Hill Country, riding on the hills is a given. As difficult as it is to climb those seemingly impossible hills, the good news is that there is always a downhill on the other side! So what do I call that? Of course, it’s interval training!I can attest that I’m in better cardiovascular shape than I’ve ever been since I’ve “added a few hills” to my life.
Think about the difficult life situations you have experienced. Whether it was a stressful job situation, an illness of someone close to you (or your own), or perhaps the loss of a loved one, going through it was unpleasant and perhaps life changing. But, you emerged a mentally stronger person as a result of those trials. The same can be said for your physical being after putting your body through momentary stressful workouts. It’s difficult when you’re doing it, but you gain a new sense of accomplishment – both physical and mental – when it’s over.
Get out of your comfort zone and experience the benefits!