It’s that time of the year. The world is getting bikini-ready, and if you’re like me, you are way behind. The winter doldrum is gone and the sun is starting to shine, so why am I not in the killer shape I should be to rock those summer clothes?
With all that life throws our way, sometimes we are lucky if we can squeeze in 30 minutes on the elliptical. Then I figure if I do that four times a week, I am sure to see a change, right? Maybe not.
As we get older and suffer from the slowdown of our metabolism, it becomes clear that we may not be maximizing our time at the gym. Simply translated, zoning out or reading a magazine while on your favorite piece of equipment is not going to get you to the weight loss or great shape you strive to reach.
The smartest, most efficient way to work out for both novices and athletes alike is to do interval training. Simply defined, interval training involves alternating short bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity, which is called “active recovery.” It’s nothing new; athletes have employed this technique for decades to boost stamina and performance.
Interval training is an incredible tool with myriad advantages: it boosts athletic performance, burns more calories in a shorter amount of time, helps you avoid the injuries that accompany repetitive activity and staves off boredom.
“I use interval training with all my clients,” said Level 10 owner, Meredith Miller, who trains a variety of professional athletes and celebrities. “It keeps them engaged and helps create a solid aerobic base, while increasing their anaerobic threshold and helping them to break through workout plateaus.”
You do not need any special equipment, intervals can be incorporated into activities as simple as walking. For example, if you’re on your daily walk, you can simply alternate a leisurely stride with a short period of faster walking. Play games with yourself, using trees or particular houses as landmarks to where you will begin and end the interval. If you are up for it, alternate brisk walking with jogging. As your endurance improves, continue to challenge yourself by constantly varying the pace.
Intervals can be incorporated in many ways. If you love the Stairmaster, pump up the levels for a minute or so, then reduce it for the next three. If you like swimming, alternate fast laps with slower ones.
There is no magic formula for the ratio. Many fitness experts recommend varying the duration of activity and rest. However, the high-intensity phase should be long and strenuous enough that you are out of breath — usually one to four minutes of activity at 80 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Recovery periods should not last long enough for your pulse to return to its resting rate. If you are ready to get really serious, invest in a stopwatch and heart rate monitor.
As with any type of exercise, make sure to warm up properly before you start your interval workout. Also, note that some experts say there should be a day in between each instance of interval training.
Anyone who is older than 60 or has health issues such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or arthritis should consult a doctor before starting an interval training program.
The benefits of interval training will become evident in just a few weeks. The more vigorously you exercise, the more calories you burn. Interval training also stimulates change in mitochondria, where fuel is converted to energy, causing fat to be burned first and at a more significant rate. Your stamina and aerobic capacity will improve and you will reduce the accumulation of waste products in your muscles, resulting in more comfortable exercise. In addition, interval training increases our ability to use our body’s fuel and recruits new muscle fibers.
It is believed this can help lower the risk of metabolic syndrome, which is the combination of obesity, insulin resistance, high cholesterol and elevated triglycerides that increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
“A combination of interval and endurance training, along with a solid resistance program, is key for anyone serious about meeting both their health and fitness goals,” Meredith said.
My advice: shake up your routine with this powerful tool that will take you to new heights in your level of fitness. Time will fly by, and before you know it, you’ll be rocking your two-piece without any second thoughts.
I feel like I have the stamina of an 18-year-old (okay, maybe an 18-year-old who doesn’t work out) and have been able to keep up with professional athletes during small group training from time to time.
I have been doing interval training for quite some time and definitely feel more fit, and am much less bored by my exercise routine. My workouts fly by and I no longer tote my favorite weeklies to the gym.
Chaton Anderson is a Writer and the Publicity Director for TheSavvyGal.com. A product and pop culture addict, she is always looking for the coolest, hippest things on the market. Email her at email@example.com with questions or leads on products and services on the cutting edge.