I love interval training, ask any of my clients or friends. I’ll do intervals on the elliptical, outdoors on a run, on the beach with bodyweight exercises, really anywhere. You might find it strange that I enjoy interval training so much, but who doesn't love completing a super great workout in under 20 minutes? My view is never too horrible either as you can tell. From learning about interval training through my certification and writing workouts for myself and for clients, I’ve realized that there is a right and a wrong way to do intervals. Here are my recommendations for a successful interval workout:
Make Your Workout Short: Interval training should not take a long time. If you are doing intervals for an hour, you’re either killing yourself or not working hard enough in your work interval. My interval workouts last anywhere between 15-30 minutes total.
- Allow Adequate Rest Between Intervals: Start with a 1:2 work to rest interval if you aren’t accustomed to interval training. Once you’ve been doing interval training for a few weeks, you can go to 1:1 and then 2:1 work to rest intervals. Intervals are a form of anaerobic exercise (basically, you can only keep up the exercise for a few minutes before your body has to quit). This is different than aerobic exercises such as steady state running, where you can keep going without rest. If your work intervals are any longer than a minute, you likely aren’t using the right energy system and therefore aren’t getting the most out of your workout.
- Work HARD: During your work interval, you shouldn’t be able to string more than a few words together comfortably if you try talking to someone. Be sure to track your heart rate, especially if you aren’t accustomed to interval training, so you can make sure you’re safe. Tracking your heart rate also allows you to be sure you’re working hard enough once you are completing interval workouts more regularly.
So where should you start? Try 7-10 intervals where you are doing an exercise for 30 seconds and resting for a minute. Yes, lucky for you, it’ll only take 15-20 minutes! One example would be running (or sprinting) for 30 seconds, followed by very slow jogging or walking for a minute, and completing this 7-10 times until you are fatigued.
One more very important note: don’t do interval training more than 2-3 days a week. Your body needs 48 hours of rest between interval training sessions.