Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Interval Training: banish workout boredom

I am slowly but surely easing my way back into running after taking almost three years off. The lapse was due in part to pregnancies but mainly because of a nasty injury that was finally correctly diagnosed as FAI (femoroacetabular impingement) followed by a fairly invasive hip surgery to correct the damage.

Needless to say, most of my runs these days are more of a jog (or maybe a trot?) but I feel lucky just to be out there again as I wasn't sure it would even be possible. At this point, I feel like I have a good enough base to step it up a notch and get out of the rut of jogging at the same pace every time. To do that, I've started incorporating short intervals into my workouts which I plan to do once or twice a week.

So, if you're bored with your cardio workout, whether it's walking, cycling, swimming, etc. incorporate some interval training to add some spice to your workout and help the time pass more quickly.

What is interval training?

  • Interval training is a cardiovascular workout which consists of a series of high intensity efforts alternated with periods of recovery or low intensity efforts.
  • In other words, during a workout increase your speed for a set period of time and then decrease your speed after that set time to an easier recovery pace.

What are the benefits of interval training?

  • Interval training is one of the most effective ways to increase your speed and build your lactate threshold, aerobic capacity and muscle strength. Those things make you faster, stronger and more efficient, thus allowing you to exercise at a faster pace for longer distances as you improve over time.
  • You'll burn MORE calories and fat in the same amount of time. (Gotta love that!)
  • The added variety of the workout will make the time pass more quickly.

Incorporating interval training into your workout:

  • First, make sure you have the green light from your doctor before adding intensity to your workout.
  • Always make sure you are properly warmed up before starting any intervals.
  • If you're a beginner, stick to shorter interval periods such as 30 seconds to 1 minute and make sure you are fully recovered before beginning the next interval.
  • Timing each interval will help you to stay on your desired pace and each should be at the same pace as the last.
  • When an interval workout begins to feel easy and you want to challenge yourself, increase either your speed or the number of intervals - but never both at the same time so as to avoid getting injured.

Example interval workout:

  • Warm up: 5-10 minutes at an easy, leisurely pace
  • 1 minute followed by 1 minute recovery/easy pace (repeat this 3 times)
  • 2 minutes followed by 2 minutes recovery/easy pace (repeat this 3 times) 
  • 3 minutes followed by 3 minutes recovery/easy pace (repeat this 2 times) 
  • Cool down: 5-10 minutes at an easy, leisurely pace
*As always, make sure to listen to your body.  If it doesn't feel good, then stop.
**If you are a beginner, you will need to decrease the time and total number of intervals.  (You could replace the above times with 15 seconds, 30 seconds and 1 minute.)

Happy training!

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