Five Benefits of Interval Workouts

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Woman on TreadmillYesterday was my functional training day and I decided to give an old workout a try and broke out the ball and yoga mat. It was so hot outside (108 degrees!) that I couldn’t bear the thought of heading to the backyard so I just grabbed a spot in my living room and did it there.

Have you tried it yet? It’s one of my favorites since the time flies while I’m doing it. I also managed to do it in 3 minutes less time than the last time I did it in June. Progress! I’m like a ninja gazelle now. 😉

In place of my cardio sessions, I’ve been focusing mainly on intervals since I can get them done in a much shorter time. That means only 20 minutes spent instead of 40 – 45. More time to enjoy the pool, magazine reading, and playing around with The Kid.

I promised you more information on interval training or high intensity interval training (HIIT) as it’s sometimes called, so here are 5 benefits:

Retain Muscle – Because I’m trying not only to build muscle but to retain what I’ve already earned, I focus on interval training. Long periods of steady state cardio combined with lower calorie intake or lower body fat have been shown to cause your body to use muscle to fuel itself. When you combine resistance training with high intensity intervals, you can burn more calories in a shorter time and your body won’t resort to using its own muscle for energy. That’s enough to convince me it’s worth my time.

After Burn Effect – You may have heard this term in exercise infomercials. Because your heart rate goes higher during the interval work periods than it typically does during lower intensity cardio, your body has to exert itself more. You burn more calories during the same amount of time doing intervals as regular cardio plus you can burn twice as many calories during the 30 minutes after your work out is done if you’ve done HIIT. This is assuming you don’t just do your workout and sit on the sofa the rest of the day, of course.

Save Time – According to a 2011 study by the American College of Sports Medicine, 2 weeks of high-intensity intervals improves your aerobic capacity as much as 6 to 8 weeks of endurance training. Because intervals are meant to be intense and effective, you need to push yourself to your fitness limits which strengthens your heart muscle. You only need to do 15 – 20 minutes of intervals to reap the benefits. This gives you an extra half hour or more back in your day to do something else. I’ve also noticed when I do run, I have much more endurance even without lots of cardio.

Nothing Needed But You – HIIT is meant to replace cardio not weight training so you don’t need weights or anything fancy to do your intervals. Although you can use a treadmill, bike, or elliptical, I do bodyweight intervals all the time. Jumping jacks, jump rope with an invisible rope, lunges, squats, skiers and more. Not to mention sprints outside, hill runs, bike intervals and more once the weather cools off again. I love doing a playground interval workout using the slide and swings with The Kid.

Prevent Boredom – Intervals involve periods of work and rest which translates to changing speed, changing incline, changing exercises frequently during the workout. This suits us Type A, run-hating exercisers perfectly since we get to do something with our attention span throughout our workout. Every 30 seconds I have to change exercises or poke a button. No monotonous treadmill pounding and clock watching for me.

When you’re running short on time, bored with your current workout, or looking to improve your cardio strength, give HIIT a try.

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