If you have ever been to a commercial gym, or any gym for that matter, you probably know the all-too familiar sight; an ocean of treadmills and elliptical machines with dozens of people grinding away like hamsters on wheels.
Are marathon cardio sessions really necessary?
You’ll be pleased to know that the answer is a resounding “No!”
The vast majority of people who want to improve their health and lose weight do not need to perform endless hours of slow-paced, low-intensity aerobic exercise to get results.
Instead of spending an hour or two at the gym, bored out of your mind, you can get the same results, if not more, from fast-paced, higher-intensity workouts lasting around 10-25 minutes, depending on your current fitness level and the form of exercise you choose.
Why is Interval Training so Effective?
The most commonly utilized form of interval training is HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training, also referred to as SIT or Sprint Interval Training.
HIIT typically involves performing a short bout of all-out, high-intensity exercise – the sprint phase – followed by a period of low-to-moderate-intensity exercise – the coast phase.
This is often performed on a 2:1 ratio, for example, 30 seconds of sprinting followed by 60 seconds of walking or lightly jogging, thus enabling your heart rate to lower before you begin your next sprint phase.
Exercising like this provides a very different stimulus to your body than would be impacted by slow, long-distance running; a 2008 study showed that 2.5 hours of HIIT produced similar biochemical muscle changes to 10.5 hours of lower-intensity, endurance-based exercise.
Another study demonstrated the ability of HIIT to increase the body’s RMR or resting metabolic rate for 24 hours following the workout. This is due to a phenomenon known as EPOC or excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption, and basically means that your body will burn more calories, and in theory, more fat throughout the day, even when you’re not exercising.
Interval training has also been shown to impart the following benefits:
- Reduction in body fat linked to fatty acid mobilization;
- Improved insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance; and
- Reduction in heart disease risk factors
Even disregarding the scientific evidence for a moment, simply compare the physiques of Olympic 100m sprinters with those of long-distance marathon runners; who has a leaner and more toned appearance? Which body would you rather have?
Are you convinced yet?
How do I get Started?
By now, you should hopefully be sold on the benefits of interval training, but this begs to question – which form of interval training is right for you?
The exercises you perform and the duration of your workouts will depend on your personal preferences and level of fitness, but here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Sprints – these can be performed in an interval fashion on a treadmill, stationary bicycle, or elliptical machine; or on a quiet road or track;
- Hill sprints – this more advanced form of sprinting is best performed on a quiet road or a field with plenty of space;
- Squat thrusts;
- Rope climbing;
- Jumping jacks; and
- Sled pulling and pushing
These exercises will exercise your entire body and are designed to be performed at maximum-intensity for 10-30 seconds, followed by a short break of 50-120 seconds.
Don’t be afraid to experiment to find out what works best for you, and remember to work hard; give it everything you’ve got and the results will come very quickly!