Fitness

Intro to Intervals

A clock face. Photo credit: Robert Proksa

What’s a common excuse for not exercising?  No time.  With everything we do  every day for work and family, sometimes we’re lucky if you have 30 minutes free for anything else.  Not enough time for a good workout, right?  Well, any activity is better than nothing.  And in any case, it’s not really about how long you spend exercising that matters most but the intensity of your routine.

If you only have a few minutes in your day for exercise, intervals are a great way to get the most “bang for your buck.”  Interval training is alternating bursts of intense activity with periods of rest.  Even if you’re not pressed for time, adding intervals to your workout is an easy way to mix up your routine – good for keeping boredom at bay and breaking out of a fitness plateau.

An interval workout will start with a warm up (foam rolling and/or light activity to get the body moving), followed by a short (like just 1 minute!) burst of intense activity coupled with a recovery period.  The recovery period varies from person to person, but 3 minutes is a good starting point.  Repeat this activity/recovery pattern two to three more times, cool down and you’re done.  Total time spent:  about 20 minutes.  As your fitness level increases, you can add more intervals or adjust the activity/recovery times so your workout stays challenging.  If you have access to a trainer at a gym, they can work with you to create a personalized interval training plan that will help you reach your goals.

Interval training doesn’t require any special equipment, and it’s easy to incorporate into just about any activity.  A few ideas to get you started:

  • Add a short sprint to your walking routine
  • Increase the incline on the treadmill
  • Bump up the resistance when using an elliptical

Now for the disclaimer:  interval training may not be right for everyone.  The short burst of activity in each interval is meant to be done at a level you find strenuous but not impossible.  It’s not a good idea to jump right into interval training if you’re just getting started with a fitness routine.  Check with your healthcare provider first to make sure it’s safe for you do intervals.  If your provider gives you the OK, it’s recommended to do interval training on alternate days so your body has a chance to recover.

(Content reviewed by The Clubs at Charles River Park. Photo Credit: Robert Proksa)

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