Are you spending hours every week at the gym trying to shed pounds by putting in time on the cardio equipment, being sure to stay in the “fat burning zone”? If you are, I’m about to give you back a lot of free time AND you’ll be in better shape than you are now.
Despite several studies proving that interval training improves your cardiovascular fitness and burns more fat and calories than continuous moderate exercise (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070627140103.htm), most people (especially women) continue to put in time rather than intensity to their workouts.
Not convinced yet? The magic of intervals is that unlike traditional cardio, you continue to burn calories for 24 hours AFTER YOU END YOUR WORKOUT. That’s right, you will be burning more calories sitting in front of the television later that night than normal (http://www.simplyshredded.com/cardio-for-fat-loss-high-intensity-interval-training-cardio-vs-low-intensity-steady-state-cardio.html). This is NOT true if you spent your hour at the gym doing regular low to moderate intensity cardio.
Okay, so now that you know you should be doing intervals, it would be nice to know how to do them, right? Here are a few suggestions to get you started. The beauty of these instructions is that you can apply them to any cardio machine. It doesn’t matter if you love the treadmill, stair climber, rower, or elliptical. As long as you can change the intensity of the workout, you can apply these strategies.
- Always warm up for at least 5 minutes before starting your first interval.
- Use a one-to-one work-to-rest ratio. (e.g. one minute sprint followed by a one minute walk OR 2 minutes of stair climbing at a difficult level followed by 2 minutes of stair climbing at an easy level).
- Keep maximum length of intervals to 3 minutes or under. Any longer and you will have to drop the intensity in order to complete them.
- Perform at least 4 reps of the intervals.
- Your “working” interval should be hard, but not bordering on impossible because you want to be able to finish all the working reps at the same intensity. You should be breathing hard through all of them and be completely exhausted by the end of the workout.
- After a few interval workouts, you will realize they get easier. When this happens, make them hard again by upping the intensity of your working intervals and/or changing the work-to-rest ratio so that your rest period is shorter. NEVER eliminate the rest period. You should always allow at least 30 seconds of rest in between working intervals.
- Keep total workout time to 20 minutes for any one exercise. Any longer, and you weren’t working hard enough during your work intervals because you should be wiped out after 20 minutes. If you really want to torture yourself, switch machines and do another 20 minute interval workout.
- Oh, and if you think you’re off the hook because you don’t have a gym membership or equipment at home, you can do intervals anyway! Alternate sprinting and walking outside. You can also do burpees or jump rope for a working interval, then wall sits or lunges as the rest interval.