That’s right! Less time on the workout clock can still get you a better workout, provided you do your workouts right. And it’s really not that complicated.
Science Daily recently reported on a Canadian study repeating the current wisdom in the exercise world: interval training makes a smarter workout. The basic formula? Push, rest, repeat. Studies are proving that cranking up your heart rate for a minute or two and then stepping back for a minute or two and repeating that pattern for the duration of your workout builds more endurance, speed, and strength than plodding along for a longer period of time.
The theory is that our miraculous bodies quickly adapt to whatever exercise we get on a regular basis, and interval training shakes things up. Walking two miles a day for weeks may keep your legs toned, but after the first week or so, you might not be burning as many calories because your body has adjusted to this new level of activity. Doing one mile of walking where you pick up the pace for one minute then slow down for two has the possibility of saving you time while getting a better workout.
The key is to change the interval length. One week, do repeats of one minute fast, two minutes slow. The next week, try two minutes fast (not gut-busting fast, just out of breathing hard fast) and one minute slow or two minutes fast and three minutes slow. This keeps the body guessing.
For those of you wondering why you’re not losing weight even though you’re on the treadmill faithfully for an hour each day, this could be your ticket. Of course, check with your health care provider before you start an exercise regimen, especially if you have medical issues.
Doing interval workouts was definitely the key for me as I tried to lose weight last year while home schooling three boys and not wanting to spend tons of money on child care or a health club membership. In 30 to 45 minutes, I could get a decent workout in and see results fairly quickly, which kept me motivated to keep looking for the time to fit in another workout.
Interval training also allowed me to go from couch to 10k in the space of three weeks last year. No kidding. While I am NOT recommending this route to anyone, I will report that even though I had never, ever run 3 consecutive miles, let alone any race of any length before, I finished the Run to the Pub 10k after beginning my training in late February.
Was I a running phenomenon, taking the race by storm, winning my age group and stunning onlookers with my performance? Please. My form sucked and I was very slow. But I didn’t finish last, I had a great time, and I did something I never would have believed I could accomplish, which included drinking a cold beer after running 6.2 miles.
Here’s another great article on interval training from the New York Times.