SHAPING UP FOR THE NEW YEAR WITH INTERVAL TRAINING
It’s December, the Holidays are upon us, and how many times have you already said, “I don’t have time!”? Too much to do, not enough hours in the day… There’s no doubt that this time of year brings challenges unlike the other 11 months. We need to do our normal activities as well as fit in extra shopping, entertaining, holiday cooking, out of town guests, etc., etc., etc. No wonder we’re stressed! Something will just have to go!
What will it be for you? Will it be your healthy eating habits? Christmas time brings such tempting treats – how can we resist? Or will it be your exercise routine? (You do have a routine, don’t you?) You can just shove that routine aside for now and save it for the New Year and its obligatory resolution making, right? Well, you could, or you could avoid the typical December weight gain and begin January in better shape than ever. “How can I do that”, you may ask, “when I just don’t have time?”
I have just the answer for you – INTERVAL TRAINING. I’ve touched on this topic in several of my previous articles, but I’d like to go into a bit more detail. Let me give you three good reasons why you should continue reading:
Get a more effective workout in less time.
Slows your aging process.
Increases your rate of calorie burning.
Got your attention?
WORKOUT IN LESS TIME
There is nothing wrong with walking an hour nearly every day. In fact, if that’s your current routine, congratulations for your dedication! You’ve already mastered the fi rst requirement for success – commitment. But let’s see what you can do to increase the effectiveness of your workout.
Interval training is defi ned as short bursts of higher intensity work followed by periods of rest or low activity. Unless you are currently training for a long distance endurance event where extended periods of aerobic activity are necessary, studies have shown that shorter bouts of exercise that focus on increased heart rate are more effective in overall physical conditioning. By including some interval training in your cardio routine, you could easily cut your workout time in half, while increasing its effectiveness.
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 weak 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 signifi cantly increase oxygen demands and thus slow the aging process. (Wright & Perricelli 2008) As opposed to exercising at a constant pace, interval training is exercise with brief periods of high intensity, forcing 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
There’s a thought process that working out for longer periods of time in a moderate intensity heart rate zone (50 – 65%) will lead to more fat loss. Really, however, adding more time to a lower intensity workout only makes your body more effi cient at that intensity. In order to get our bodies to their most effi cient level, however, higher intensity exercise must be introduced. The higher intensity causes the body’s metabolism to increase, thus enabling us to continue burning calories at an increased rate even after the exercise session is completed.
GETTING STARTED WITH INTERVAL TRAINING
How can i incorporate interval training into my current routine?
The easiest way is to choose your favorite cardio activity and introduce intervals into it. For example, walking: Walk at a normal pace for a 10 minute warm up. Then, using a watch, speed 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. Prefer the Eliptical 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.
Should i do this every time i work out?
No. The interval workout should be done 2 to 3 times a week. Do your constant pace, slower cardio workout the other days.
I’m worried about my knees. Will this be too much impact?
If you tolerated walking before, this should not create more impact. If high impact activities are taking a toll on your joints, try low impact machines such as the Eliptical or the stationary bike. i don’t have a heart rate monitor. how can i tell if i’m getting my heart rate in the proper zone? There is another way to measure heart rate activity without a monitor. It is called Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). On a scale of 1 through 10, 1 would be 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 5 minutes should vary from 6 to 8.
I’m just starting to exercise. Is this a good choice for me?
Always check with your physician before beginning any exercise program. With his or her okay, fi nd a certifi ed personal trainer to customize a program to fi t your needs. The proper program can start where you are now and take you to that next, healthy level.
My best wishes to all of you for a blessed holiday season and a happy and healthy 2012. Please contact me if I can get you started on your path to better fi tness in the New Year.