What is interval training?

May 26, 2016 | By Catherine Cameron

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Ready to pump up your walking routine? Want to burn more calories in less time? Consider aerobic interval training!  No longer just for athletes, interval training (often referred to as HIIT or ‘high intensity interval training’) has earned its rightful place as a highly effective fitness-building strategy for the average person.

What is interval training?
Interval training is simply alternating bursts of intense activity with periods of lighter activity. Consider your walking workouts for example. If you’re in good shape, you might add some short bursts of jogging into your brisk walks — or you might incorporate stairs (find a flight of outdoor stairs in a nearby park), hills and speed intervals into your regular walks.

How do muscles respond to interval training?
During intense exercise, muscles produce waste products that can contribute to muscle soreness. By alternating bursts of intense exercise with periods of easier exercise, you’ll reduce the buildup of waste in your muscles and experience less stiffness or pain.

Are the principles of interval training the same for everyone?
If you simply want to vary your routine, you can determine the length and speed of each high-intensity interval based on how you feel. After warming up for example, you might increase your intensity for 30 seconds and then resume your normal pace for a minute or two, repeating the pattern throughout your workout. How much you pick up the pace, how often, and for how long is up to you. Within a week or two of regular interval training, your fitness level will begin to improve. The secret? Keep challenging yourself a little week over week.

Interval training and YOU!
If you’re unsure about incorporating intervals into your everyday workouts, here are two options to try.

  • If you’re a walker, you can add some speed intervals to increase the intensity of your workout. Walk at a normal pace for five minutes and then power walk for two…. repeating the pattern throughout your workout. You can also try power squats, jumping jacks, jump rope, or hill climbs as intervals – anything that increases your heart rate and pushes you out of your comfort zone a little, is an option.
  • If you walk the kids to school, play a game of Red-light, Green-light along the way. Try walking one block and jogging the next, repeating the pattern a few times.
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Catherine Cameron

A marketing communications professional with over twenty years of experience, Catherine is President at CAMERON Communications in Toronto. Also a fitness instructor of 27 years, Catherine works with some of Canada’s leading health and lifestyle brands (Tennis Canada, ParticipACTION, DeerFields, Heart and Stroke Foundation and more) and has inspired thousands of Canadians to adopt healthier lifestyles. Catherine is also our Lead FITPRO Ambassador and the founder and director of our Walk@Work Program. She lives in Toronto with her family and is an avid runner, cyclist, and fitness enthusiast. Visit her website.
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