Just what the heck is Interval Training?

Interval Training 101

Chatting with the young at heart at yesterday’s open hockey game I found myself in a spirited conversation about heart rate zone and interval training.  

  • Everybody wanted to know: 

What’s the best heart rate target?  

What’s the best heart rate zone to exercise in?  And .. 

How long should I remain in a heart rate zone? 

Answers to these questions vary individual to individual and goal to goal as much as the conservative right differs from the liberal left in this country!   Who you are, what your objectives are, and what your fitness and exercise position is are just a few of the first questions to ask to design a healthy, comprehensive heart rate zone training plan, and heart rate zone training workout

I’ll have many more helpful hints on cardiovascular training in the heart healthy month of February, but hope that this introduction helps to reduce overloading of the term Interval Training. 

Most folks get their 1st taste of interval training with cardiovascular exercise.    

In fact, one of the most commonly used and basic interval programs is the hard/easy cycle.

Walkers frequently become runners with interval training without even knowing it!  They walk for a bit, run for a bit, and then walk for a bit more.  In the process complete their 1st interval workout!

An interval is quite simply: a distinct period of exercise followed by a distinct period of recovery.

The aspiring runner who runs until ‘very tired’, then rests ‘until feeling better’ is interval training every bit as much as the athlete who sprints for 30 seconds and then walks for 2 minutes.

Four specific things create an Interval of training:

  1. The Intensity of an Exercise Effort
  2. The Duration of an Exercise Effort
  3. The Intensity of the subsequent Recovery Period
  4. The Duration of the subsequent Recovery Period

Fitness professionals, athletic trainers, and coaches prescribe interval training to accomplish highly specific goals.  For athletes who depend on explosiveness and quickness, much emphasis is placed on short duration high intensity efforts to develop burst and power … those required during competition.

Similarly, endurance athletes commonly use lower intensity intervals with long (and sometimes really long) durations, perhaps with very short recovery periods to develop cardiovascular efficiencies… again, as is required during extended competition.

Unfortunately, athletes and exercisers who exclusively limit their training in this way actually miss out on multiple beneficial exercises askew to their niche.   

Here’s why:

For one, interval training, is hardly restricted to cardiovascular exercise!   In fact, you might legitimately argue that straight set resistance (weight lifting) programs were actually the original seeds of interval training!  A Straight Set does quite handily satisfies all 4 of the above interval requirements: lift a weight until failure; then recover for 2 minutes.

Secondly, narrowly focused cardiovascular intervals actually fail to cover all of the zones within a comprehensive heart healthy exercise program.

More educated athletes do do some form of cross training these days to supplement their sports specific activities, but runners who simply run run run, and cyclists who just ride ride ride are not only prone to overuse injuries, but also cheat themselves of the benefits of a more balanced exercise program.

For the average forty/fifty something simply looking to look and feel better, interval training  has significant relevance.

Non only does interval training play a part in a comprehensive cardiovascular program, but they can be a key element in resistance training as well!

Straight sets are hardly the degree to which interval training can be applied to resistance training!  In programming for muscular endurance and body fat reduction,  low resistance, high repetition, longer duration INTERVALS  are a highly effective and extremely efficient resistance training interval.

And the list goes on.

Looking for more help with interval or heart rate zone training?

 Just register and get a Free copy of my Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic whitepaper!

Or browse the Exercise Section of my blog.

Or, get the whole scoop in by new ebook How To Be Healthy! 

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