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What can intervals do for you?

The principles of Interval Training are pretty simple. A period of high intensity exercise is followed by a period of relative rest (Work:Rest Ratio). Duration of rest and work periods can be altered in order to increase or decrease difficulty, but the basic idea remains the same; work a bit, rest a bit, then repeat a pre agreed number of times. But why should you do it?

  1. YOU WILL BURN MORE FAT – it is true that sustained periods of long slow paced training will burn fat. Lengthy periods of exercise (in excess of 90 minutes) will see you burn a huge amount of calories. In 75 minutes of running this morning I burnt well in excess of 1000 kcals. A study published in the Journal of Obesity in 2011, showed in excess of 2kgs of fat loss following 15 weeks of interval training. This is great news for people with busy schedules. You don’t need to clock up huge amounts of time doing low intensity cardio to lose fat, just crank up the intensity!
  2. YOU WILL IMPROVE MUSCULAR PERFORMANCE – are you a person who goes in search of a personal best in endurance type activities? Do you race a bike or enjoy a run? The simple facts are that the longer you have been training the harder it is to find ways of significantly improving your performance. You are already doing a lot right when it comes to covering the ground quickly. However, a 2002 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine found that interval training played a key part in improving performance of trained endurance athletes. This was due to an improved buffering capacity of the muscle. In simple terms, this means that the body gets better at dealing with high levels of lactate in the muscle, delaying the onset of fatigue. Therefore, you can work harder for longer.
  3. YOU WILL IMPROVE YOUR POWER OUTPUT – A 1998 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, discovered that a relatively short period of high intensity interval training of around 7 weeks, was enough to generate improvements of the power output of the muscle. The result for endurance athletes should mean that you are able to generate more speed.

Common Interval Sessions – simple but Effective!

Running/Cycling Intervals – get out on the road or on the treadmill – work hard for a minute and then rest for a minute. Decide how many intervals you are going to do before the session. 3 is a reasonable place to start for a beginner. There is nothing to stop you doing something similar in the pool.

Spin Classes – intervals are not always uniform and intensity varies throughout the class.  A great way to add variety to your training and see results.

Sprint Intervals – find 100m of flat ground – then sprint it as fast as you can. Time how long it takes. Rest for the same period and then repeat, trying to keep inside the previous time limit. We regularly use this session to develop speed endurance in rugby teams. We ask them to sprint the length of the pitch in 17s, then rest for 17s. We perform eight in a set. If we are feeling cruel we perform two sets, normally at the end of a rugby training session. No wonder heads drop when they hear the phrase “On the line for 17s!”

Circuit Training – if pounding the pavement doesn’t float your boat and you prefer more variety in your training, circuits could be the answer. Circuits can be put together in many different ways but will be determined by facilities and equipment. Here is a bodyweight circuit with 5 very simple exercises for you to have a go at (you just need a pull up bar – just work to your max while performing the exercise and you should get a good sweat on.

  1. Press Ups
  2. Tuck Jumps
  3. WG Pull Ups
  4. Alternating Lunges
  5. Plank
  • Perform as many reps as possible of each exercise in 30 seconds.
  • Rest for 30s then perform next exercise.
  • Repeat circuit 5 times.
  • To increase difficulty, increase the time to 60s per exercise and take out the rest periods.

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