Looking for a challenge? How about a way to drop extra pounds and get in rockin’ shape — in a minimum amount of time? It’s called interval training and it’s long been the secret of top athletes and their coaches. But, with a little know-how, you can do it, too.
Interval training is an athletic training system that combines short bursts of intense activity, called intervals, with periods of lower intensity, or rest periods. By alternating the two throughout your workout, your body is forced to exert more effort than it normally would during a steady, continuous workout of moderate intensity.
Developed in Sweden during the 1930s, interval training was known as fartlek, — thats Swedish for fast play — for its bursts of speed of various lengths and duration. German running coach Woldemar Gerschler took things a step further, focusing on heart rate recovery.
Soon, interval training caught on among track stars, cross-country runners, and swimmers. It is now a mainstay among professional and amateur athletic coaches.
But intervals can be used by anyone, beginner or advanced, for almost any kind of workout.
You’ve got to be disciplined with it, but you don’t have to do it much, or for too long, says Doug Katona, a strength and conditioning coach who trains world-class athletes at his CrossFit Endurance gym in Newport Beach, Calif.
Instead of 45 minutes on a recumbent bike, reading a magazine, give me 15 minutes of interval work, Katona says. It will be more challenging, but the workout will go by a lot faster and you’ll really like what your body starts to look like. After a few sessions, you’ll actually enjoy the workouts.
Katona says that since he put some of his clients on the Tabata Method, which alternates 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise with 10 seconds of rest for a total of four minutes, the results have been through the roof.
Interval training trains your system to utilize different fuels for energy, Katona says. It stresses the body in a positive manner to force it to adapt.
Health and Weight Loss Powerhouse
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, short, high-intensity exercises burn more calories than longer, low-intensity aerobic workouts. That’s probably why coaches and personal trainers insist it’s one of the best ways to lose weight.
I use interval training all the time, says Michael Banks, a certified personal trainer and founder of Body by Banks Corporation, who served as chief designer of the Olympic Village Training Facility during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. It’s the best of both worlds. Because let’s face it, time is of the essence for everyone.
Interval training is accomplished by adjusting several factors in a workout: the length or duration of the intervals, the length or duration of the rest periods, and the type of activity taking place during the rest periods.