Whole Health

Interval Training

Burn more calories without spending more time at the gym

Interval training is a vigorous, accelerated workout. It works by alternating short bursts (~ 30 seconds) of intense activity with longer intervals (~ 1 to 2 minutes) of less intense activity and recovery.

Interval training does not have to involve high-impact exercise, jumping movements, or heavy weights.  It can also make exercise more interesting and may be performed just about anywhere, with or without equipment.

Using no equipment:

  • walk
  • run
  • bike
  • swim
  • jumping jacks
  • squats/lunges

Using equipment:

  • elliptical trainer
  • treadmill
  • exercise bike

The benefits of interval training include:

  1. Burn more calories during a session – Vigorous exercise burns more calories
  2. EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) – burn calories even after workout is over. Oxygen Burns calories. As your body recovers from intense exercise it needs extra oxygen to restore a normal resting state. So, extra calories continue to be burned for a long time after the workout
  3. Increase exercise efficiency – Complete an effective workout in less time than a standard workout.
  4. Improve aerobic capacity/endurance – As cardiovascular fitness improves, endurance will increase.

To begin an interval training session:

  1. Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Now, increase the intensity for 15 to 30 seconds.
  3. After 15 to 30 seconds at high intensity, resume a normal pace.
  4. To what extent you increase intensity and how many times you increase intensity during a session is an individual decision as is the length of the exercise session.
    • The first session should be slightly challenging in terms of intensity.
    • As individual capability improves, increase: intensity, the number of high intensity segments in a session, and the length of the session.
  5. Finish with a cool down.

Interval timing and intensity should be based on either Target Heart Rate (HR) or Rate Perceived Exertion (RPE). See table below for an explanation of Target HR vs RPE:

Target Heart Rate (HR)Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
1.Calculate your maximum heart rate (HR) by subtracting your age from 220.1.RPE is an individual factor and a reliable indicator used to monitor exercise intensity.  Pay attention to how your body feels during exercise.
2.The American Heart Association generally recommends a target heart rate of:
~ 50% to 70% max HR for moderate exercise intensity,
~ 70% to 85% max HR for vigorous exercise intensity.
2.Perceived Exertion exercise intensity correlates with how hard the activity feels to an individual.

What feels like a hard workout for one person may feel like an easy workout to a more fit or energetic individual
3.Heart medications such as Beta Blockers can suppress HR.  Be careful if using this method.

Consider discussing your target heart rate with a doctor or a personal trainer
3.Two RPE scales are commonly used, the Borg scale (6 to 20) or revised category-ratio scale (0 to 10). 

An example of revised category-ratio scale is below:

Scale Indicator ValuePerceived Exertion
0Rest
1Really Easy
2Easy
3Moderate
4Somewhat Hard
5Hard
6Still Able to Talk
7Really Hard
8Rapid Breathing; Cannot Talk
9Really Really Hard; Difficult to Maintain
10Max, Hardest: Maximum Effort
Revised category-ratio scale RPE scale

If you have a health condition or have not been exercising, talk to a doctor before beginning interval training.  To avoid injury be careful not to over-train. Start with one or two higher intensity intervals during each workout.   As endurance improves, increase the challenge.

Example: Interval Training on Treadmill

1Warm-Up 5 minutes of of light walking/jogging or dynamic stretching.
2Sprint 30 second intensity interval at 70% of maximum effort (~ 3 to 5 on RPE scale).
3Recover2 minute rest interval, jogging or walking at a decreased pace.
4Sprint30 second intensity interval at 80% of maximum effort (~6 to 8 on RPE scale).
5Recover5 minute walk at decreased pace.
6StretchStatic stretching.
7MoreAdd extra intervals as body condition indicates improvement.
Treadmill Interval Training – Beginner

Instead of sprinting try increasing the incline on the treadmill to obtain similar results. Example:

1Warm-Up5 minutes of light walking/jogging or dynamic stretching.
2Increase Incline4 to 5% incline for ~30 seconds producing 70% of max effort (~3 to 5 on RPE scale).
3Recover2 minute interval: jogging/walking at decreased pace.
4Increase
Incline
8 to 9% incline (or less, if needed) for ~30 seconds producing 80% of max effort (~6 to 8 on RPE scale).
5Recover 5 minute interval: walking at decreased pace.
6 Stretch Static stretching.
7 More Add extra intervals as body condition indicates improvement.
Increase Incline for Extra Intensity

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