Interval Training: Why You Need This High to Low Intensity System

Interval training can help anyone get the most out of their cardiovascular workouts. This training involves alternating short, high intensity bursts with active rest periods. Doesn’t sound very complicated or challenging on paper, but it's not necessarily easy to complete, but it's so worth it. The best part is that anyone can do intervals, from the novice to the advanced gym goer. All you need is a stopwatch.

Heart Rate

Your goal should match your effort. Start by finding your resting heart rate; for a couple of days take your pulse in the morning right when you get out of bed and mark that down - that's your resting heart rate. The appropriate training zone can be determined with your maximum heart rate.  To figure this out, subtract your age from the number 220.

Now calculate your heart rate reserve... Subtract your resting heart rate (as described above) from your maximum heart rate. The fat burning zone is at 50-75% effort rate. Let’s take the example of a 40 year old person. She has determined that her resting heart rate is about 80 beats per minute. Now, in order to find your heart rate reserve step one is to find your maximum heart rate. For this person, take 220 minus 40 which is 180. Step two is to find the heart rate reserve which is 180 minus 80, which is 100 for the heart rate reserve. Step three is to find the optimal training zones. For this person we have 50% and 75% of 100 which are 50 and 75 beats per minute. However, we need to add back in the resting heart rate. We have 50 + 80 which is 130 (low end) and 75 + 80 which is 155 (high end). The key take away from this long mathematical equation is that in order to best burn fat, this 40 year old person needs to do this interval training with a heart rate between 130 and 155 beats per minute. An exercise specialist or exercise professional can help you find your heart rate reserve as well. 

Exercises are selected and performed at this target heart rate zone. For example, you might sprint or pick up the pace on the treadmill, Elliptical, or row machine for 30 seconds, then recover for 15 seconds either slowing down this pace or stopping and then starting again. Then you might repeat this cycle for 20 minutes. You could even do this on a stationary bike. The time selection can vary depending on your cardiovascular level. Maybe sprinting for 1 minute requires 1 minute of walking for you at this point. In the near future, as you improve, recovery might reduce to 45 seconds or 30 seconds. They key is moving at different speeds to spike and lower the heart rate.

Why Intervals?

As your cardiovascular ability improves with that lower required rest period, you are building up your oxygen capacity. Calories are being torched. Intervals also have that afterburn effect in which your body continues to burn calories hours later throughout the day. Your metabolism is certainly functioning at a higher rate. Your fat is crying and disappearing even while you are sitting at work. Interval training is not about comfort zones. Your body adapts to steady state cardio. The heart does not grow stronger when it is not asked to try harder. The body is pumping more blood during interval training. With the constant changes in pace, the heart becomes more resilient. These time efficient energy expenditures are truly great for you. Slow and steady doesn’t win the race when it comes to your heart health. All you really need is your body. Intervals are extremely versatile and can be done almost anywhere with any type of equipment, even on the TRX. The constant mix-up will keep you motivated and entertained.

Changing the pace changes your body. Get off the treadmill cardio hamstring wheel, or at least go fast and then slow down on it, and then go fast again. Adding interval training to your routine will benefit your heart and your reflection.

8/6/2020 7:00:00 AM
Megan Johnson McCullough
Megan is an NASM Master Trainer and Instructor, professional natural bodybuilder, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Corrective Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle & Weight Management Specialist, member of Men’s Heath Fitness Council, Wellness Coach, Women’s Health Magazine Action Hero, candidate for her Doctorate, and fitness st...
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