Fitness trends come and go, but interval training is one that has taken the exercise world by storm.  The benefits of interval training have proven to be high and varied, so it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

What is interval training?

Interval training is a type of physical training that involves a series of low- to high-intensity exercise workouts interspersed with rest or relief periods. The high-intensity periods are typically at or close to anaerobic (without oxygen) exercise, while the recovery periods involve activity of lower intensity.

The higher intensity portions of this exercise will provide an increase in cardiovascular performance and fat burning metabolism. A continued elevation in fat burning is seen for several hours afterwards an interval training workout. There are different techniques within ‘interval training,’ which include Fartlek, Tabata, sprint intervals, and high intensity interval training. Fartlek (speed play in Swedish) training consists of changing your speed between different landmarks. It is traditionally performed on the road between landmarks such as telephone poles, where you run faster between every other pole. Tabata training is when you perform a high intensity exercise for 20 seconds, then rest for 10, and perform several rounds alternating. For sprint intervals, you would pick a determined distance, sprint this distance, jog back to the starting line, and continue to alternate sprinting and jogging this distance. Lastly, high intensity intervals consist of maximal effort of an exercise, alternated with rest periods. As you can see, there are many different variations of interval training.

The history of interval training

Interval training first became recognized as a form of exercise in the late 1930’s. A German coach by the name of Dr. Woldemar Gerschler paired up with a cardiologist named Dr. Herbert Reindel to search for a training method which would maximize the size, fitness and efficiency of the heart. Gerschler and Reindell initially carried out experiments with 3000 subjects, each of whom completed a 21-day period of precise heart rate controlled training. They found an increase in the heart volume by one-fifth after this short time period and significant improvements in performance. Out of this research a style of exercise that we now call interval training was born.

The benefits of interval training

Interval training has shown to have many benefits and be an extremely efficient form of exercise.

1. Burn fat more quickly.

Interval training has shown to increase fat burning metabolism more quickly and sustain this effect for hours after your workout.

2. It’s easier to sustain.

Doing short bursts of 20-30 seconds of high intensity exercise is much easier than trying to exercise for a prolonged period. Because of the high intensity, usually an interval workout only lasts for 15 minutes maximum. It is one of the most efficient exercise methods, shorter duration and quicker results.

3. Endorphins.

Exercise releases endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones, into your bloodstream. Of course, who doesn’t want to feel good.

4. It’s cheap.

You don’t need to go to the gym to do interval training. In fact, just hitting the pavement outside by performing sprint intervals combined with some body weight exercises is beneficial. No equipment necessary.

5. A healthier heart.

Interval training has shown to improve the efficiency of how your heart pumps blood to the rest of your body. As one of the most important organs in the body, heart health is paramount to full body wellness.

6. Reduce stress.

Sometimes, life gets stressful. Exercise is an excellent way to ease the stresses of life, and interval training will allow you to work through intense, negative emotions. This will allow you to develop lower stress levels and a clearer mind.

Example of an interval training routine

1. Warm up for 15 mins. *It is important to note, that before performing higher intensity exercise it is recommended to increase muscle blood flow. This is to reduce your risk of muscle or tendon injury.

2. For 40 yards, run at 75% of your maximal effort.

3. Jog back to your starting line.

4. Repeat this 4 times (increasing your intensity every time, until you reach maximal effort).

5. Complete your routine with a cool down that lasts 10 minutes.

For help with starting your own interval training routine, come visit Focus Training and find out more about our fantastic range of personal training courses.

Written by Amy Leach, for Focus Training in the United Kingdom