As soon as you mention cardio training, most people imagine jogging away on a treadmill for half an hour or so, yet what they fail to realize is that there are far more effective ways of burning calories. This article does not set out to criticize continuous cardio training- long bouts of sustained exercise (eg jogging, swimming and cycling) will help you burn off a lot of calories, particularly if you exercise in the morning before you have ateen breakfast. That being said, there are some problems with continuous exercise- firstly it takes a long time, and most people do not have half an hour to an hour free every day. Secondly it is very dull! Anyone who has spent half an hour on a treadmill will know exactly what I am talking about.
Instead of exercising at a low intensity for a long period, interval training involves high intensity exercise, but with rest periods to help your body recover. There are some real advantages to this method:
Time- Because you are exercising at a high intensity, you can burn calories more quickly than on a long steady run- there interval sessions are usually much shorter (around 15-20 minutes) than continuous training.
Metabolism- while both continuous and interval training will help you burn lots of calories when exercising, high intensity sessions will do more to raise your metabolism after you have finished exercising- this means you will be burning extra calories even hours after you have finished working out .
Cardiovascular system- long slow jogs do very little to train your cardiovascular system- your heart can quite happily tick away at just a few beats over its normal rate. However a high intensity interval session will really elevate your heart rate and in the long term this will let you exercise harder for longer- as well as losing weight you will be much fitter.
Creating an Interval Training Workout
The most basic type of interval training has three variables- exercise time, recovery time and number of repetitions and all three variables are fixed throughout the workout. For example two of my favorite sessions are 10 reps of one minute running, with a minute recovery in between each rep and 8 reps of 2 minutes running with 90 seconds recovery in between each rep. Try one of these routines out for yourself, and you can make it harder or easier by adjusting any one of these 3 variables.
Pyramid Interval Training
Another great type of interval training is called pyramid interval training- the main difference being that the exercise times are not fixed, but instead increase towards the middle of the workout, and then start decreasing towards the end.
A good example is:
1. 60 seconds running, 90 seconds rest
2. 90 seconds running, 90 seconds rest
3. 120 seconds running, 90 seconds rest
4. 180 seconds running, 90 seconds rest
5. 120 seconds running, 90 seconds rest
6. 90 seconds running, 90 seconds rest
7. 60 seconds running.
As you can see, repetition number 4 is the longest and also the toughest. This pyramid system actually works very well- by the middle of the workout your muscles are warm and you are exercising pretty efficiently. Also once you have gotten to the middle, you have crossed a key psychological barrier- every rep gets easier, so you are less likely to quit on your cardio workout .