It is easy to get in a rut. You find a recipe or two you like and, before long, you’re having it 4 nights a week for a month. Then it doesn’t taste as good anymore and it’s time to move on to another recipe from my cookbook, Clean and Simple. :) Your workout program may be the same. If you’ve been exercising on a regular basis for more than a few months, you may have developed a routine at the gym. Ten minutes on the treadmill, some time with the free weights and a minute of plank for good measure have gotten you to where you are now. So, that’s good enough, right?
Even if you haven’t noticed a drop in results, it will happen. Your body adapts to your workouts and becomes more efficient if you don’t move in new ways. In order to progress from where you are now, you need to add new elements. May I suggest interval training?
Interval Training has been around for a long time in athletic circles, as a way to improve speed, endurance and overall performance. The concept is simple: alternate brief, but fast bursts of intense exercise with slower bouts of continuous work. The result is more work (calorie burn) in a shorter amount of time due to the greater intensity of the exercise and the adaptations your body is forced to make.
Interval training allows you to work more intensely without the excess fatigue (and cravings) from a long workout. Your body also experiences other benefits:
1. New capillaries are built, which better oxygenate your muscles, including your heart.
2. An improved cardiovascular system and lactic acid tolerance improves performance.
3. Your long-term adherence to exercise will increase because you aren't burned out.
4. You can adjust your level of effort for your current state of fitness or fatigue.
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There are two basic types of interval workouts, which are most adaptable to standard cardio exercises, such as running, walking, biking, rowing, jumping rope, etc.
1. Fitness intervals are best for beginners and use periods of increase intensity, which last up to 5 minutes, followed by lower intensity activity of the same duration. A running/walking combination would be a good example.
2. Performance intervals are better suited for well-conditioned athletes without a history of heart problems (seriously, check with your doctor). This approach uses maximum intensity (85-100% of your maximum heart rate), which lasts up to 15 minutes, followed by lower intensity periods of the same or shorter duration.
As a final note, I want to emphasize the use of caution when adding intervals to your workout regimen. Intervals are not to be used during every workout. Please remember to warm up, cool down and pay attention to your body. Do not ignore pain, dizziness or nausea. You will experience soreness when adding in any new exercises, but pushing through pain and excess fatigue may lead to injury. I’m not your mom, but I want you to stay active.