An interval workout consists of bouts of high intensity work alternating with periods of lower intensity or rest. By varying the length of the work interval and the length of the rest interval, a wide variety of workouts can be designed to achieve a range of goals. Here are some common questions about intervals.
Interval Q and A
Q. Intervals are only important for competitive athletes, right?
It is true that intervals are an important training component for anyone preparing for competition.
They help you:
- Learn to compete with greater intensity.
- Build the time that you can maintain a certain level of intensity.
- Improve your speed of recovery.
- Develop your body’s ability to switch between energy systems.
And they are a very time-efficient method of achieving all these goals. But recent research is showing that intervals are not just for competitive athletes.
Q. Why do interval training?
A. Doing intervals is the most important part of training speed. Keep focus on the aim of your interval training. A typical mistake is to ski too fast during short repeats, since having strength enough is rarely a problem, and distances are relatively short. Training intensity should increase gradually to prepare the body for harder routines. The central components of successful interval training are the right technique, mobility and speed.
You learn to pace yourself during interval training, since you ski faster doing intervals than you would during the targeted event, like a marathon. Increasing your speed reserve is also important to make sure your running technique remains comfortable. Moreover, interval work improves recovery time, important for skiing on uneven terrain.
Q. Can intervals help me lose weight and maintain health?
A. Yes. New research suggests that interval training may be a very time-efficient and effective way to lose weight, not to mention that it will build your fitness as effectively as longer, moderate workouts.
A recent study in Japan reached the intriguing conclusion that you would burn more fat with two 30 minutes bouts of exercise separated by a 20 minute rest period than in a single 60 minute session.
And finally, intervals add variety and structure to your workouts, which makes them even more interesting and helps the time pass.
Q. Why are intervals good for older athletes?
A. They have been shown to be the most effective workout for stemming the tide of aging.
A recent pilot study in Norway has shown that interval workouts may be more effective than longer, lower intensity workouts for reducing cholesterol, adjusting the ratio of fatty acids in the blood, and reducing the risk factors for metabolic syndrome. They have also been shown to be an effective therapy for patients with heart failure. Consult with your physician before starting an exercise program.
Q. Then why not do them all the time?
A. Because you can’t. Expect to be tired after doing intervals. If you’re not, you’re not doing them hard enough. You need to allow your body to recover for a day or two after interval sessions. Competitive athletes might do intervals as many as five days per week during a high-intensity speed training week; older athletes can generally do intervals up to 2–3 times per week.
Q. What should I know before I get started?
A. Warm up well.
The reason intervals are so effective is that they are intense. By working intensely, even for a short period of time, you place a greater demand on your heart and lungs, which in turn provides a stronger stimulus for physiological change. If all of your exercise is at the same moderate level, it will still burn calories, but it won’t inspire your body to make changes. In order to work at a higher intensity, it is even more important warm-up well and be sure you are using proper technique. We recommend at least 10 minutes of warm-up.