REACH: Interval training so bad it’s good

By Mark Siebert

Do you want to get the most calorie burn out of your workout? Are you finding that you are hitting a plateau?

Interval training could be a great option.

Interval training is alternating high intensity activity with lower intensity activity. Whether your exercise of choice is walking, running, using cardio equipment or group exercise, intervals can help you get the most from your efforts.

After prolonged exercise at the same intensity, your body naturally adapts and becomes more efficient, needing less effort to perform the same activity. Adding intervals can help provide that high intensity exercise in short bursts to increase your calorie burn. Try adding two or three intervals per workout, once or twice a week, and then build upon that over time.

According to the American Council on Exercise, intervals can help improve insulin resistance, lower blood pressure, reduce body fat and raise HDL-cholesterol levels. And they can help improve your cardiovascular fitness.

There are multiple ways that you can incorporate intervals into your daily activities just by modifying your routine. For beginners, start with a 5-minute warm-up followed by alternating three to four higher intensity intervals of 30 seconds to 1 minute with equal recovery intervals. Based on your goals and how you are feeling, you can experiment with the duration of effort, number of intervals and recovery time between efforts.

A common mistake is not making the recovery time long enough. For example, if your first hard effort interval is 30 seconds, then return to lower intensity for at least 30 seconds. To progress, increase the work time by 15 seconds or decrease recovery time by half.

It is recommended to not do interval training on consecutive days and to give at least a full day rest in between to allow the body to recover.

Mark Siebert is fitness manager of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. He has a B.A in exercise science and is an ACSM certified personal trainer.