Improve Fitness And Make Exercise More Enjoyable – The Benefits Of Interval Training

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If you're like me, doing the same exercise routine time after time can become boring.  I have also noticed that my fitness tends to plateau, and the gains are not as good as they were to start with. The reason for this is that the human body adapts, and to achieve further increases in fitness levels, it needs to be pushed further, and in different ways. Interval training is a perfect way to achieve this.

For example, running 5 k's often, perhaps every second day for 2 months, will allow you to achieve a good level of fitness. However, if you're looking to improve your times, then you will find it beneficial to include an interval training session at least once a week into your routine. This will not only improve your times, but relieve the boredom that comes from doing the same thing day after day. This benefit can't be overstated, as ideally you want to make exercise something that you look forward to, rather than putting it off.

Using the example above, you could replace a 5 k run on one of the days, with this workout. Start at an easy pace for 5 mins, slower that what you would normally run at.  This will allow you to warm up and wake up your aerobic system. From here on, do a cycle of intervals as follows. 30 seconds as hard as you can go, followed by 2 minutes at an easy pace.

This will allow you to recover. Initially you may only be able to do about 3 of these intervals, or you may not be able to sustain maximum effort for 30 seconds. That is ok, and you can change the length of time at maximum effort and/or the number of intervals to suit yourself. I use the numbers here as a guide only, as everyone is at different.  For example, after the 5 minute warm up, you may only be able to sustain 20 seconds at maximum effort, so you may do 3 intervals at 20 seconds maximum effort, followed by 2 minutes recovery at an easy pace.

Alternatively, you may find that you can sustain 30 seconds at maximum effort, and you may be able to do 5 intervals. If on the other hand you want to increase the time spend at maximum effort, you should also increase the recovery time. For example, if you are able to sustain maximum effort for 1 minute, then you may want to increase recovery time to 3 minutes.  I would suggest you trial a few different combinations of time spent at maximum effort, recovery time, and number of intervals to see what you are comfortable with.  A final and important thing to remember, is to always use the last 5 min or so to recover. This will allow your body to warm down slowly, and avoid injury. 

After adopting this training, what you will notice, is that whatever interval times you used, you will be able to sustain maximum effort for longer, and you will be able to do more intervals. You may then want to use one of the 5 k runs you normally do to gauge your fitness.  I would expect that after doing interval training once a week like this, you will notice your run times improve. Everyone will improve at different rates, but for me, I noticed a significant improvement after one month.

Once you see the improvement, this will motivate you further, and you may want to include another interval session, so that you're doing it twice a week. I wouldn't recommend doing intervals more than that though as it is important to give your body enough recovery time between workouts.   

Once you have tried interval training, and seen the benefits, another great way to increase your fitness even further, while adding even more variety to your workouts, is to use cross training. That, however is a whole other topic. 

Best of luck with you fitness.

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