Interval training is a great way to burn fat, keep things interesting when you’re working out, or taking your fitness to a new level. They can be done indoors and outdoors. As some guiding principles – when it’s time to work – work. When it’s time to recover, recover. And if you are feeling really flat. Stop, try them again after a few days of light work.
Check out these interval training ideas:
High aerobic intervals
These are the bread and butter of most cardiovascular intervals, a bit of work with a bit of rest. These will form the foundation for the other types of intervals to come. Keep them interesting by mixing up the interval length and the recovery length. The high aerobic intervals, you can do them at what you feel to be a 7-8/10 effort (if you think of 10 being the hardest, 1 being sitting on a couch). The recovery intervals can come back down to a warm up effort or below (maybe what you think is a 4-6/10 effort level). You can start these intervals today if you are feeling healthy and free from injury.
Template: 3 – 12 (or more) intervals, 2 – 5 minutes hard (7-8/10 effort), with a 1:4 work:recovery ratio.
12 intervals: 2 minutes hard, 1 minute easy (36 minute workout)
3 intervals: 5 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy (21 minute workout)
6 intervals: 3 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy (18 minute workout)
Mixed intervals: 2,3,4,5,4,3,2 minutes hard, 1,1,2,2,2,1,1 minutes easy
Get creative with these. For variation, switch machines up every two lots of intervals to work different muscle groups. As an example:
9 intervals: 3 min hard, 1 minute easy (first three on the rower, second three on the bike, third three on the treadmill)
Anaerobic (without lactic acid build up)
The aim of these types of intervals is to train the neuromuscular system to work in a coordinated manner; in short, making your movements more efficient over time. It’s also going to help prevent injuries because you are conditioning your body to recruit all relevant muscles and muscle fibers. The key to these intervals is to work at full effort, and then allow enough time between each work period to clear the lactic acid build up (that’s the hurty-sparkly stuff left over in your working muscles). You want to be ‘fresh’ before starting each interval. Keep it short, sharp, and take the time to recover before doing it again. You could do these once a week or once a fortnight. You can also do these year round because you do not have to manage big build ups of lactic acid. You can do these on a Remember to warm up thoroughly first.
Template: 4 – 12 intervals being 15 – 30 seconds hard, with a 1 :3 work:recovery ratio.
8 intervals: 15 seconds hard, 45 seconds recover (cool following a warm up). 8 minutes total
4 intervals: 30 seconds hard, 90 seconds recover (good for rugby conditioning).
6 intervals: 100m run hard, 60 seconds jog recover (good for running efficiency and injury prevention)
12 intervals: 25m swim hard, 45 seconds floating or 50m easy back stroke
Do these intervals outside in the car park or on a sports field (Except for the swimming. Running in your undies no such a good idea. Unless you’re Cory Hutchings. Even then it’s a bit borderline…)
Variations: Add some resistance with the training. Running; find a 5-10% uphill gradient if you are working on strength, or -1 to -3% gradients if you are working on speed (yup, that’s downhill).
V02 max intervals
Ever wanted to a build a massive heart, increase your blood volume, develop your blood vessel density in your heart and working muscles? Then this is how to do it. Learn to love oxygen by working so hard your body is needing it, then take a break and recover. Yes, these intervals do end up anaerobic, but the longer work time means it places a bigger request on your cardiovascular system to hurry up and adapt (if you have the right amount of recover). Again, work at your maximum, and take a full rest period to recover between intervals. It’s the last 30 seconds that you have to really work for these. Have 4-8 weeks of some serious fitness conditioning under your belt before you kick these off. You might do these once a twice a week, for two to three weeks.
Template: 3 – 6 intervals being 2 – 4 minutes hard, with a 1-3:1 work:recovery ratio.
6 intervals: 2 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy.
3 intervals: 4 minutes hard, 3 minutes recover.
Mixed intervals: 4 min, 3:30 min, 3 min, 2:30 min hard; 4 minutes recovery between each.
These you can also do on a hill or a treadmill, with various gradients (or resistance levels) from super steep, to just above horizontal. REMEMBER, if you can’t max out – stop the intervals, take some days recovery and try again.
Anaerobic (with lactic acid build up)
Developing the ability to tolerate or clear lactic acid build up in your working muscles is important for many sports, and can be an added benefit for your general health. But, it’s going to hurt like a son-of-a-gun. Completely opposite to the previous interval set, this time you want to work all out to build as much lactic acid as possible, take a short break, then work again – forcing your muscles to adapt to working in hard conditions. Remember that stop-go-stop-go effort on a rugby field, or rowing 500m in the 10/60 challenge after the 100m run? Yup, this is what this type of training is for. Save these workouts for closer to your game season, after some serious pre-conditioning. You can do these once a week, or once a fortnight – no more.
Template: 6 – 10 intervals being 30 – 90 seconds hard, with a 1-3:1 work:recovery ratio.
6 intervals: 90 seconds hard, 90 seconds recover (fun on a treadmill, bike or rower)
8 intervals: 30 seconds hard, 60 seconds recover (working on your ability to tolerate the pain of the last minutes of rugby play, or the last km of a surging 5km run)
Tabata intervals: 8 intervals 20 seconds hard; 10 seconds recover (yeah, it breaks the recover ratio rule, but it’s a short 2:40min workout – rest plenty afterwards).
Mixed intervals: Hard efforts: 30, 40, 50, 60, 50, 40, 30 hard, 60 seconds recover (indoor soccer anyone?)
Mixed run intervals: 400m, 350m, 300m, 250m, 200m hard; 90, 80, 70, 60 seconds recover.
Real life is a collection of different length intervals, so don’t get too hung up on fancy patterns and exact seconds. You could take these workouts outside to Mt Victoria, run every uphill hard, downhill easy. Jump in for a game of water polo to add some intensity in the pool, or try some touch rugby or ultimate Frisbee for some run stuff. Change directions, change terrain, change your shoes. (Smart and progressive) change leads to adaptation. Adaptation is improved fitness. And fitness, is what it’s all about.
If you would like more info, come in for a chat, or check out this excellent reference: