What is Interval Training?

Interval training is a type of training workout that involves alternating periods of high-intensity effort with periods of low-intensity effort. It is a highly demanding approach to training and is utilised in a variety sports to build speed and endurance.

It enables athletes to cover more distance at a higher intensity than they could if they worked continuously. All sessions can be tailored to suit your individual ability as there are three variables that can be altered: the intensity, the length of the working period and the length of the resting period.

What Does Interval Training Improve and How Does it Work?

Interval training is considered by many to be the ultimate cardiovascular workout. This is because it works to improve both the aerobic and anaerobic systems, which as a result helps to improve your fitness levels.

During the working period of high-intensity effort, you need to transfer energy from glucose to your muscles very quickly. However, your body simply isn’t able to get oxygen to your muscles quickly enough for aerobic respiration to occur, so your body instead uses your anaerobic system. The anaerobic system works without oxygen and uses the energy already stored in your muscles (glycogen). However, the by-product of this is lactic acid.

The build-up of lactic acid (which needs oxygen to be broken down) generates an oxygen debt that needs to be repaid after the exercise stops (which is why we continue to breathe deeply for a few minutes after exercising). It is during the recovery period of your interval training that your heart and lungs work together to pay back the debt and break down the lactic acid. In this period your aerobic system uses oxygen to convert stored carbohydrates into energy.

Research has suggested that by performing high-intensity intervals that produce lactic acid, your body adapts and burns the acid more efficiently during exercise. This means that you should be able to exercise at a higher intensity for a longer period of time before fatigue slows you down.

Benefits of Interval Training

Here are some of the main benefits of interval training…

Weight Loss

Interval training is thought to be much more effective than longer, slower endurance workouts when it comes to weight loss. This is because the intense effort you put in means your body has to work harder to recover, which in turn means you’ll burn more calories.

Time-Saving

Interval training is perfect if you live a busy lifestyle as it is an incredibly time efficient form of exercising. By increasing the intensity you can reduce the length of your workouts and still reap the same benefits.

It’s Fun!

If you find long distance runs/bike rides to be an unenjoyable and tedious experience, then interval training might be just for you. Interval training lets you add variety into your workout as the intervals can consist of whatever type of exercise you like and can be customised to suit your needs. This can be pivotal in keeping your motivation levels high as it prevents you from becoming bored and lacking enthusiasm.

Full Body Workout

What makes interval training particularly great is that you can structure it so that you work a range of different muscles. Unlike other types of training where you only target one muscle group, interval training enables you to incorporate weight training, cardiovascular activity, stretches and more if you like!

Disadvantages of Interval Training

There are however some disadvantages of interval training to also consider…

Not Ideal for Beginners

If you’re only just getting into fitness for the first time, then it’s best you start slowly as it allows you to learn the correct form and build consistency. With interval training on the other hand, it’s difficult to learn the proper form as you’re performing the exercises at a high intensity.

Higher Injury Risk

Interval training can be extremely challenging and can push your body to its limits. This high volume of pressure that it places on your body can make injuries more likely to occur than other gentle exercises tend to.

Not Recommended for Those with Heart Problems

The high intensity nature of interval training means that it should be avoided by those with heart disease and high blood pressure.

Interval Training Examples

Here we’ve listed some basic workout ideas to help you get started with your own interval training…

  1. Jog for 1 minute and then sprint for 20 seconds. Repeat this until you’ve completed 3 miles. (This type of training is perfect if you’re taking on one of our running virtual challenges).
  1. Swim 1 length of the pool at 85% intensity and then swim 2 lengths at 40%. Repeat this for 20 minutes.
  1. Choose a set of 5 of your favourite muscular exercises (e.g. press ups, lunges tricep dips, squats and plank). Do each exercise for 45 seconds with a 15 second rest in-between. Once you’ve completed all the exercises, rest for 1 minute. Repeat 2 more times through.

Training Ideas with Race At Your Pace

Here at Race At Your Pace, we’re passionate about rewarding you with a sense of achievement for keeping active. Our virtual challenges encourage you to keep fit by running, walking, cycling or swimming in a way that fits around you and your lifestyle. You can complete the distance at your own pace, wherever you are in the world, and in however many stints you require. And once you complete the challenge you’ll receive a prestigious medal as recognition of your hard work and dedication.

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See more: Swimming for Weight Loss – How to Lose Weight Swimming