Quality not quantity for smart cardio
Interval Training, Part 2
Longer is better! For years, this was the catchphrase of the fitness industry in relation to cardiovascular or aerobic exercise. It still holds true if you are training for endurance events, such as distance running, cycling and others.
For those who enjoy and compete in these sports, long training sessions on the road are a vital part of their training.
But what about those who don’t? For most of us, looking to improve our fitness, lose weight and improve overall health without the need for long, slow bouts of aerobic exercise, a great alternative is available – cardio interval training.
As described last week, interval training involves short periods of high-intensity exercise, followed by short periods of low-intensity exercise. It has distinct advantages over longer, steady-state (one-paced) aerobic training as described last week, including variety, increasing metabolism, time efficiency and suitability for all levels of fitness.
If you are an athlete who is not involved in endurance sports, interval training is the best way to build your aerobic base and performance while helping maintain muscle tone and/or mass that can be lost through sustained steady-state training.
For interval training to be fully effective, a good starting point is needed. The following system works for all fitness levels:
Imagine a scale from 1-10, 1 being your effort level when your body is at rest (no effort), and 10 being an all-out sprint (maximum effort). Now consider the normal aerobic activity you partake in, perhaps walking, jogging or cycling. Your average pace (intensity) would score between 3-4 on this scale. You know you are at this level if you are able to maintain a conversation without having to catch your breath. You are exercising moderately. Now, imagine raising your intensity to level 5- 6.
You are still able to maintain conversation, but can only get out a few sentences before having to take a gulp of air. Your exercise level is now moderate-hard. Raising your intensity level to 7 or 8, you are now only able to speak in single words, your exercise level is hard.
On this basis, an introductory 20-minute interval training program would look something like this:
Minute 1-5 – Warm-up at your normal intensity (level 4-5).
Minute 5-6 – Increase to moderate-hard (level 6).
Minute 6-8 – return to level 4-5.
Minute 9-11 – Increase to level 6. (For intermediate/advanced fitness levels, these 2 minutes or at level 7-8).
Minute 12-15 – Return to level 4-5 (or below if necessary).
Minute 16-18 - Increase to level 7-8 (intermediate/advanced to level 9 (very hard)).
Minute 18-20 – Slow to level 3 for recovery.
In 20 minutes, you have completed your training. Follow this with a 5-minute stretch and you’re done. You have effectively raised your metabolism and can expect your body to benefit from this routine for a number of hours after you have finished.
You will still be burning calories from this workout in your sleep and for perhaps longer, depending upon your fitness level and the intensity of your exercise session.
Beginners should maintain this level for 4-6 weeks before moving on.
One way of progressing this routine is to add 10 seconds per week to your ‘fast’ intervals or cut your ‘slow’ intervals by 10 seconds.
Keep your sessions to 20 minutes. You’re looking for quality here, not quantity.
Paul O’Brien is a fully-certified Personal Trainer (ACE) and holds a national qualification in Exercise and Fitness. He is also a certified Life & Executive Coach with the LBCAI (Ireland). Paul is the founder of ‘Bootcamp West’, an innovative and exciting program of fitness classes. He also designs and trains programs for individual athletes and teams. To contact Paul call 086 1674515, or check www.bootcampwest.com for details of current classes.