​In this fast-paced world of ours, it is hard to stick to the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) exercise recommendation of doing cardiovascular exercise 4-6 days a week for 45 minutes and 2 days a week of a full body workout that would take 45 minutes to an hour to complete. And so fitness experts have come up with an alternative quick workout called interval training that will still give you great results just in a shorter period of time.

Interval training basically alternates short bursts of higher-intensity exercise with intervals of slower activity that allows the body to take a break. It releases hormones which create lean muscle, burn calories and fat as well as work neglected muscle fibers. It is a superior workout over aerobic exercise for several reasons. It involves exercising at higher intensities for brief periods of time and this extra effort uses more energy because it uses larger, less efficient muscle fibers. This in turn increases your metabolism because the body needs extra calories to repair the muscles so you will continue to burn calories long after your workout. Another advantage is associated with your heart. Due to the higher intensity of interval training, the heart must adapt to the demand for more oxygen that is going to the working muscles. Just like any other muscle, the heart muscle will get thicker and pump blood more efficiently and decrease high blood pressure. And of course the greatest advantage over long aerobic exercise is the fact that it takes less time. Interval training helps bust through “fitness plateaus”. Studies show that long distance runners can pump more blood, deliver more oxygen to their muscles, and generate more energy than before after only of few months of interval training.

The other great part about this style of training is that you can perform it anywhere. It can be done inside or outside and used with walking, running, cycling, swimming, hiking, etc…. For example, let’s say your walking on the track at Dellinger Park. To interval train you would start by walking one lap to warm your body up. You would then take a brief jog on the straightaway (1/4 of the track). On the curve you would go back to a walk, then on the next straightaway you would sprint. On the second curve you would walk again and on the straightaway sprint again and so on for 20 to 30 minutes. That’s all there is to it. Make sure you increase your intensity slowly over time and listen to your body. If at any point the exercise becomes painful, stop immediately.

There are special group fitness classes that do interval training that you can attend at different fitness centers and you can also do the training on any cardiovascular machine like treadmills, crosstrainers, steppers, and stationary bikes. Other names for interval training include HIIT, Tabata, Metabolic and Crossfit. They are different in how they perform the intervals and the equipment being used, but still have the same principles. Interval type training is a wonderful short workout but it is fairly hard to do, so make sure you work up to higher intensities and don’t over train by doing it everyday. You should only do this type of training 2 to 3 times a week and not two days in a row. Your body needs sufficient time to recover and rebuild. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me and like any other workout, make sure you consult your physician for clearance.

Mary Wannall is the owner of Real Life Fitness.
She can be reached at mwannall@gmail.com.