What is interval training?
Interval training offers a change from steady state running, where you pace yourself at the same level of exertion throughout your workout. It involves a series of short bursts of intense “give it everything” effort followed by a recovery period that is mixed into your normal exercise routine. This higher level of intensity really boosts the kilojoule burning, fat burning and fitness increasing benefits of running.How effective is it?
Training at a higher level of intensity (in small tolerable doses) helps your body adapt to a higher level of fitness and stamina. Intense exercise burns more kilojoules during exercise, and it triggers a greater boost in your metabolic rate afterwards, so you will continue to burn kilojoules at a higher rate well after you’ve finished training.
What’s more, interval training is thought to trigger changes in the level of certain neurotransmitters and hormones that can even further enhance fat loss. According to research conducted at the University of New South Wales, intervals can stimulate a significantly higher production of chemicals called catecholamine’s, which act to break down fat stores and help utilise body fat as fuel.
The research compared a group of overweight women who cycled at a steady, constant state for 40 minutes with another group who cycled for 20 minutes, but performed frequent, intense 8 second bursts followed by a 12 second active rest. The interval group lost 3 times more weight. That's triple the weight loss in half the time.
Intense exercise is also thought to increase the production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH), a natural performance enhancer that reduces body fat and builds lean muscle tissue.The advantages of interval training
• Achieve a higher level of aerobic fitness
• Improved ability to tolerate and buffer lactate (lactic acid) in the muscles
• Bigger boost of your metabolic rate
• Increased kilojoule use
• Increased weight and fat loss
• Helps you break through a plateau
• Prevents boredomPractical tips on interval training
Here are some tips on how to incorporate interval training into your running routine.
• Aim for 2-3 times a week – Interval training is intense, so your body needs more time to recover. Try to space out your interval training over the week so you have lighter training days in between. Performing intervals more than 3 times a week may lead to overtraining.
• Use time, or landmarks - Exercise equipment is ideal for interval training, because you have a clock in front of you at all times. If you are outside running, use telegraph poles or parked cars as a guide to your work and active rest periods.
• Aim to progress - As your fitness improves, gradually increase the intensity and duration of your intervals, and/or reduce the duration of your rest period. You might start out including 3-5 intervals during your runs, and build that up to 10-15 intervals throughout your run as your fitness improves.Warning about interval training
Don’t push yourself too hard too soon while introducing interval training. It is not suitable for beginners. Make your intervals only slightly harder than normal, and gradually build up over time. Check with your healthcare professional if you have any concerns.
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