The author is just an ordinary man with a 9 to 5 job. He happens to be a physical fitness enthusiast and the sports and training methods he practises are weightlifting, powerlifting, bodybuilding, circuit training, interval training, track and field, gymnastics, martial arts and swimming.
Roy Palmer is a teacher of The Alexander Technique and has studied performance enhancement in sport for the last 10 years. In 2001 he published a book called ‘The Performance Paradox: Challenging the conventional methods of sports training and exercise’ and is currently working on a new project about The Zone. More information about his unique approach to training can be found at http://www.fitness-programs-for-life.com.
This article was posted on March 22, 2006
There�s been a lot of buzz recently about Interval Training. So, you may be wondering what it really is and, more importantly, why you should incorporate it in your fitness workouts. Well, if you want a workout that can help propel you to the next fitness level, burn more calories, increase your speed, improve your power and more, then it�s time to learn more about this effective technique.
A simple definition of Interval Training is: short, high-intensity exercise periods alternated with periods of rest. These higher and lower intensity periods are repeated several times to form a complete workout . Here�s a basic example: walk for 5 minutes at 3.5 MPH, walk for 1 minute at 4.2 MPH and then repeat this sequence several times.
Most people spend their workout time only performing continuous training exercises. These are exercises where the intensity level is basically constant throughout. An example of this is walking at 3.5 MPH, at 0% incline for 30 minutes.
Continuous training is very effective and should not be eliminated from your weekly workouts. However, it�s recommended that you include both Interval Training and continuous training sessions as part of your fitness regimen.
Why should you include Interval Training? As previously mentioned, there are many benefits to this type of training and execution is relatively simple. Interval Training can help you improve cardiovascular fitness, increase speed, improve overall aerobic power, burn more calories, break-through a plateau, increase workout duration, reach new exercise levels, expand your workout options and increase your workout threshold � just to name a few.
Plus, this training method has useful applications for beginners, intermediate exercisers and even conditioned athletes. There are two basic types of Interval Training. For the majority of exercisers (novices and intermediate) Fitness Interval Training methods are recommended. Athletes can choose a more advanced technique known as Performance Interval Training.
The Fitness training method utilizes periodic increases in intensity. Typically the higher-intensity levels range from 2-5 minutes in duration and are followed by lower-intensity periods that also range from 2-5 minutes. And, a critical element in Fitness Interval Training is determining the appropriate level for the higher-intensity periods. This level should not exceed the anaerobic threshold (which is usually reached below 85% heart rate reserve).
On the flip side, the Performance training technique involves periods of near maximal or even maximal intensity (e.g. >85% heart rate reserve � even reaching 100%). The higher-intensity levels can range from 2-15 minutes in duration and are followed by lower-intensity periods that also can range from 2-15 minutes in duration.
Don�t let the two types of training and their ranges confuse you. Incorporating Interval Training methods into your exercise routine is actually quite easy. Since the majority of exercisers fall into either the beginner or intermediate category, we�ll focus on getting started with those techniques.
To begin, choose the type of exercise: walking, jogging, swimming, biking, etc. Next determine your lower-intensity level. This is usually somewhere between 50-65% target heart rate. This will be your baseline, lower-level intensity. Then simply increase the intensity-level up to where you feel like you are working hard to very hard, but avoid reaching a level over 85% target heart rate. If monitoring your heart is not feasible, instead use the RPE scale where 1 is basically at rest and 10 is working extremely hard. For example, if you find that when you are exercising at a comfortable level you rank a 5, then bump up to a 7 for the higher-intensity intervals.
You may choose to systematically raise and lower your intensity (e.g. 2 minutes lower intensity followed by 1 minute higher intensity and repeat) or you can alternate more randomly by raising and lowering the level at your discretion. To increase your intensity, you may choose to change the speed, incline, or some other variable.
Interval Training can be especially helpful in situations where you are trying a new form of exercise. For example, this can be very beneficial when first learning to jog. If you attempt to jog continuously without building up to it, you will probably fatigue quickly and even give up. However, if you begin with intervals of walking interspersed with jogging periods, the workout will be much more enjoyable and effective. Also, you will be more likely to stick with the program and achieve the end result � continuous jogging.
Now that you know the benefits of Interval Training and the basic techniques for it, why not give it a try for yourself. Not only will it provide health benefits and improved fitness levels but it is also a great way to avoid workout boredom. Plus, with Interval Training workouts often are more enjoyable, go by quicker, and improvement results come faster. So why not try spicing up a stale, run-of-the-mill workout with Interval options? You may even find yourself excelling in an activity you were skeptical of even trying.
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Common methods for training include periodization, intervals, hard easy, long slow distance, and in recent years Tabata intervals. The periodization method is very common and was accredited to Tudor Bompa and consists of blocks of time, generally 4–12 weeks each. The blocks are called preparation, base, build, and race. The goal of a structured training program with periodization is to bring the athlete into peak fitness at the time of a big race or event. Preparation as the name suggests lays the groundwork for heavier work to follow. For a runner contemplating a competitive marathon the preparation phase might consist of easier runs of 1–4 miles 3-4 times per week and including 2–3 days of core strengthening. In the base phase the athlete now works on building cardiovascular endurance by having several long runs staying in heart rate zone 1-2 every week and each week adding slightly more mileage (using 10% rule for safely increasing the mileage). Core strengthening is continued in the base period. Once the base phase is complete and the athlete has sufficient endurance, the build period is needed to give the athlete the ability to hold a faster pace for the race duration. The build phase is where duration of runs is traded for intensity or heart rate zones 3-5. An easy method to obtain intensity is Interval training and interval training starts to happen in the build phase. Through interval training during the build phase the athlete can achieve higher Lactate Threshold and in some athletes VO2 max is increased. Because interval training is demanding on the body, a professional coach should be consulted. In the very least the athlete should do a warm up and active stretching before the interval session and static stretch or yoga after hard interval sessions. It is also advisable to have days of rest or easy workouts the day after interval sessions. Finally the race phase of the periodization approach is where the duration of the workouts decreases but intense workouts remain so as to keep the high lactate threshold that was gained in the build phase. In Ironman training, the race phase is where a long “taper” occurs of up to 4 weeks for highly trained Ironman racers. A final phase is designated transition and is a period of time, where the body is allowed to recover from the hard race effort and some maintenance endurance training is performed so the high fitness level attained in the previous periods will not be lost.
If I could bottle up a special health prevention pill, it would be comprised of your shoes, and feet. Recent research has shown just how much more powerful walking is than previously thought.
I don’t need to be convinced, since people regularly see me walking all over Los Angeles with my training clients. They have all benefited from the powerful, health producing, results of their walking programs.
Compared to other cardiovascular training methods, walking is extremely convenient, and inexpensive. You can walk just about anywhere. All you need is a pair of shoes, and you are off. No expensive high tech equipment is necessary. How much easier can it be?
Another positive feature of walking is its low impact on joints, muscles, and bones, as well as, for most people, the physical ease of doing it.
Three recent research studies suggested there are even more benefits associated with brisk walking. These benefits include better survival rates for women with breast cancer, reduced risk of endometrial cancer, and lower rates of cardiovascular challenges.
Please be aware, walking should not be simply a shopping stroll, but a brisk, 2.0 mph plus walk. Your walking heart rate should reach more than 55% of your maximum heart rate for an extended period of time. Your maximum heart rate can be calculated by taking 220 minus your age.
The breast cancer study was recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, and was conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Women diagnosed with breast cancer who walked 2-3 mph, 1-3 days per week were 20% less likely to die from the disease. Those who walked 3-5 times per week reduced their risk by 50%.
The study suggested physical activity has been linked to lower levels of circulating ovarian hormones, which could explain the relationship between physical activity and breast cancer.
The endometrial cancer study, conducted at Vanderbilt University, and the Shanghai Cancer Institute, found that women who walked for exercise in adolescence and adulthood had a 37 percent reduced risk of the disease. Even post menopausal women who recently started to walk reduced their risk 24%. The study sample was 1700 women. Reductions in risk began after 25 minutes per day up to 50 minutes per day.
In another study conducted at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, researchers examined the effects of 30 minutes of self paced, brisk walking, 5 days per week for 50-65 year old individuals.
The results were very impressive with significant decreases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, reduction in stroke risk, and increased functional capacity.
Now that we understand some of the many great health benefits of walking, we need to understand what is the best way motivate yourself to get those 3-5 days per week in.
Researchers have found that counting steps is by far more motivational than using time to track progress. Shoot for 10,000 steps per day. I recommend investing in a pedometer to keep track of the total amount of steps you walk per day. You can find them anywhere online, or at your local sporting good store.
10,000 steps per day walkers seem to be more aware of how many more steps they need to achieve their goal as a result of the constant reminder from the pedometer.
A good resource for the 10,000 steps concept is The Step Diet: Count Steps, Not Calories to Lose Weight and Keep It Off Forever.
Staying consistent, week after week, with your walking program is great, but adding 2 days of strength training, and flexibility work is even better.
For my “secret health prevention pill” consider starting a walking program today. Lace up your shoes, take the prevention pill, and pound the pavement!
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