SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: Interval training: Bust the rut


Are you short on time for your workouts? Bored with your current workout or not seeing the results you want?

Interval training might be just what you are looking for.

Interval training involves alternating between short bursts of high intensity and an active recovery, such as alternating between walking and jogging during a workout. Interval workouts are a good addition to a workout program because they help you build endurance, increase fat loss and increase performance level.

Interval training helps you get the most out of your workouts, by alternating between aerobic and anaerobic activity. Each workout can be different depending on how you feel that day.

You can easily add intervals into your regular cardiovascular workouts, by increasing your speed either by time or landmarks. To ease yourself into it start by using landmarks -- running from streetlight to streetlight, then back to walking, then pick another landmark and repeat. It is a pretty simple way to add intensity (and increase calorie burning) to your workouts.

By adding interval training to a workout you are using both energy systems in the body, aerobic and anaerobic. The aerobic system uses oxygen to convert carbohydrates to energy; this is for extended periods of exercise. The anaerobic system uses carbohydrates that are stored in the muscle (in the form of glycogen) for short bouts of exercise, such as sprinting.

When working with intervals there are a few things to keep in mind.

Always perform at least a 5- to 10-minute warm up before your workout, start out slowly and train safely.

As with any workout you want to prepare the body for the demands you will place on it by gradually increasing the intensity of your movements, your muscles will respond better when they are warm.

Also, be sure to follow up your workout with a 5- to 10-minute cool down and 5 to 10 minutes of stretching.

If you are brand new to interval training you will want to take it slowly at first. When you use your anaerobic system, for the short bursts of higher intensity exercise, lactic acid builds up as a byproduct of burning glycogen without the use of oxygen.

This buildup causes that burning sensation in your muscles you might feel after a run or an intense weight lifting set. When you are new to interval training the lactic acid will most likely accumulate at a faster rate, which will lead to difficulty sustaining the exercise.

That is why after an intense bout of exercise you will want to recover with an active recovery, typically a lower intensity version of the same activity. The active recovery helps to alleviate the "muscle burn" of lactic acid production.

Be smart about your workouts. If you plan on doing intervals of 30 seconds high intensity followed by 90 seconds of active recovery but you find that you are not ready to increase the intensity at the end of the 90 seconds, give yourself more recovery time.

Interval training should not be performed more than twice per week and should not be done on consecutive days.

Also, this type of training is best for apparently healthy individuals. If you are unsure if you are able to do this type of workout please check with your doctor first.

For the best results consult with a certified personal trainer, who can set up an interval training program that will work best for you. Interval training can definitely be a challenging workout, but if you stick with it you will likely see some great results.

Valerie Rankin has been working in the fitness industry since 1998. She has a bachelor's degree in health education and fitness promotion. She is the group exercise director at the YMCA where she manages and instructs fitness classes.


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