Cardio For Fat Loss, Part 2: How Do I Do Interval Training?

Do you want to know how to implement interval cardio? I've layed out what you can do to perform this training to maximize benefits and fat loss!

How Do I Do Interval Training?

You can do interval cardio training with any exercise that elevates your heart rate. But by far and away the mode that is the safest, that produces the best results is done on the treadmill. 95% of my clients that have graduated from my Fat Loss Lifestyle 12 Week Body Transformation program utilized this exact interval cardio session. Each session must be personalized for the individual. That's why we call it a "Personalized Interval Cardio Session" (aka PICS).

If you have not run for many years, don't fear. I can not tell you how many of my clients who are well over 50 told me that they could not run because of bad back, hips, ankles, etc. Yet after they did their first FLLS PICS (along with proper stretches) they felt empowered, euphoric and a whole new world opened up to them.

PICS performed on a treadmill is safer than when performed outdoors because:

  • More body awareness and variety of strides. Most injuries from running are from repetitive techniques and not being aware.
  • Less shock in joints because of shock absorbance and movement of tread (the ground does not move).
  • Looser muscles and better range of motion because we stretch the hamstrings (back of legs), quads (front of legs) glutes (buns), inner thighs, and groin/hamstrings before 10 minute warm-up, after Challenge #1 and after Challenge #6.
  • More controlled environment. We can systematically vary intensity with speed and incline adjustments.

Proper clothing is important - good shock-absorbing shoes that are broken-in and less than six months old. Tight, form-fitting supportive clothing is necessary. Ladies, wear a sports bra; guys, wear an athletic supporter or supportive underwear plus a tight pair of spandex shorts under your normal shorts.

Personalizing PICS

O.K., now that we know why we should do PICS let's learn how to personalize it. For a more clear understanding of exactly how to personalize your first session, please print off your PICS cheat sheet (located at the end of this report). Go get it now and plug in your values while reading the following:

In a nutshell, a PICS session is 4-9 one and a half minute challenges, depending on your fitness level. It's a 60-second power-walk directly into a 30-second jog directly into a 15-second sprint. In between each challenge we walk slowly, at the same speed that we started the 10 minute warm-up (which we refer to as baseline) to recover and get ready for the next challenge.

The amount of time for each challenge is written in stone (105 seconds). But the amount of time in between each challenge is individualized. Rest periods are shorter in between the beginning challenges and lengthen as needed in the later, more intense challenges.

How do you know when to start the next challenge? In order for you to start your next challenge, three things must occur:

  1. You should feel like you have your breath back. For me, it feels like I can take a deep sigh. You should be able to pass the talk test, meaning you should be able to easily hold a conversation.
  2. Your heart rate must be under 125 beats per minute (BPM). If you do not have a heart rate monitor, simply count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by six to get an estimate of your BPM.
  3. You must be an 8 or 9 on a 1-10 energy scale. One is really low energy, 10 is very high energy.

If any one of the above does not occur after 4-5 minutes of recovery walking at baseline, then you are done with your FLLS PICS.

Below are three different stride techniques that we will use to put tension and stress in different muscles such as glutes, hamstrings, quads, core, etc., and take it out of bad places, such as joints, bones, ligaments and tendons.

Stride Technique 1 Power Walk - 60 Seconds

  • Long Stride Challenge: With each stride, challenge yourself and try to increase the length of the stride. Focus on feeling your buns and your hamstrings (the back of your legs). Many of my female clients have actually sculpted their buns with this one technique alone.
  • Stand tall, lean back, put body weight on heels.
  • Dig heels into tread - heels hit first, point toes up.
  • Squeeze upper body muscles as you pump arms intensely - elbows bent at a 90 degree angle, using these muscles will get your heart rate 3-6 beats higher at the end of the challenge.
  • Tighten abs/core. Pull your belly button back away from the waistband on your trunks.

Stride Technique 2 Jog - 30 Seconds

  • Come out of the power-walk (leaning back) and break into a jog, leaning forward. This technique is your more normal jogging style. Just accentuate the forward tilt.
  • Bounce off balls of toes. Act like you are tip-toeing across the bedroom floor so as not to wake up the kids. Your heels really do not hit the tread at all. Squeeze upper body muscles as you pump arms intensely, with elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Tighten abs/core. Pull belly button away from belt.

Stride Technique 3 Sprint - 15 Seconds

  • Simply intensify the jog technique. Energetically drive your knees high through the ceiling. Give it everything you got.
  • Squeeze upper body muscles as you pump arms intensely.
  • Tighten abs/core, pull belly button away from belt. By backing away from the treadmill's control panel before sprinting, you will insure you won't hit it with your knees.

In teaching the FLLS PICS to well over 500 individuals, I have never had anyone fall off the back of the treadmill by backing away for the sprint phase. That is not to say it could not happen to you. But you will definitely get a warning as you approach the back of the tread.

You will hear the tread make a higher pitched squeak and feel the rear roller on your heels reminding you to go a little faster to move slightly forward with your body position on the tread.

To start your FLLS PICS, the first thing is to get on the treadmill in the manual mode. It is important for you to be in control of the speed and the incline - since there is no way that a program knows how you feel and if you are ready for the next challenge.

For the 10-minute warm-up, use the estimated starting speeds below. It should feel like you are in a "hurry-at-the-grocery-store" type stride. Your height (leg length) will determine your starting speed.

Height (Approx.) Starting Speed
Short - 5'4" 3.0 mph
Medium - 5'9" 3.5 mph
Tall - 6'2" 4.0 mph

Adjust starting speed slightly if it feels too fast or too slow. Every minute, increase your speed by 0.1 mph. During the entire warm up, utilize Stride Technique #1, the Power Walk technique. The entire warm-up is done with a 0 degree incline.

After your 10-minute warm-up using Technique #1, bring your speed back down to baseline, take in a couple of long, slow, deep breaths, exhale slowly and get ready to rock. You are ready for your first challenge. For each challenge we have two variables: in this case with the treadmill we have speed and incline.

How To Compute Starting Incline And Speed For Challenge 1

  • Starting incline at 1.5 degrees for beginners, 2.5 degrees for intermediate and 3.5 degrees for advanced.
  • Starting speed for the 60-second power walk is 0.5 mph faster than baseline. For the 30-second jog it is 2.0 mph faster than baseline and for 15-second sprint (the speed always stays the same on the jog and sprint phases) no adjustment is needed

Note: the above are only recommendations. If starting speed for power walk or jog seems too fast or slow, adjust accordingly.

How Much To Increase Variables On Each Progressive Challenge

  • Incline is increased by 0.5 degrees.
  • Speed is increased by 0.1 mph for each 60-second power walk, by 0.2 mph for each 30-second jog, and no adjustment needed for the sprint. The only difference between the jog and sprint is driving the knees high and squeezing your upper body tight.

Example

  • 5'9" Male - Beginner.
  • Warm up at 3.5 mph-4.4 mph over 10 minutes, then bring down to baseline/3.5 mph.
  • Workout format: 60 second power walk immediately into a 30 second jog immediately into a 15 second sprint.

Check and log your heart rate on your FLLS PICS cheat sheet after each challenge. Typically your heart rate will increase 6-9 beats for each progressive challenge.

For an average untrained, healthy client in the above scenario, the heart rate after the Challenge #1 will be around 135 BPM, 142 after Challenge #2, 149 after Challenge #3, 156 after Challenge #4, 163 after Challenge #5 and 170 after Challenge #6.

In the transition from the power walk into the jog, start jogging first then hit the up arrow on speed (by holding it, the tread will increase in speed faster and more smoothly than repetitiously tapping the arrow).

To come out of the sprint smoothly, hop and split feet to land on the side rails while simultaneously grabbing the electrodes/hand rails. Hit the down arrow and bring speed and incline down to baseline, then start walking on tread (wait till tread has slowed down) while reading heart rate display.

If any of the starting speeds and inclines seem too fast or too slow than make adjustments. As long as you are not on any major heart medications and do not have any pre-existing heart conditions, do not be alarmed if your heart rate gets up to 160-180 BPM during the last couple challenges.

Your heart rate is only maxed for 10-15 seconds before it starts to drop. As long as you feel normal and the heart rate recovers, there is no risk. If you or your heart rate does not recover after 3-4 minutes, cool down at baseline for 10 minutes and conclude the FLLS PICS.

It is very important to stretch the hamstrings (back of legs), quads (front of legs) glutes (buns), inner thighs/groin, and calves for 30 seconds for each muscle group before warm-up, after Challenge #1, after Challenge #6 and at the very end of the PICS. Each time, try to lengthen the muscles a little further than the previous time. Do not rush. Relax by letting out a long breath into each stretch for 30 seconds.

In weeks two-four, as you chart your heart rate readings for each challenge, you will find that the values are falling. This is a great sign that you are becoming more fit. In approximately week 2 or 3 when Challenge #1 feels too easy, skip it and tack on another challenge or two at the end of the session, increasing incline and speed for each challenge incrementally.

Most people (even untrained sedentary folks) can safely perform the FLLS PICS on a treadmill with very little risk of injury. But if you are afraid to try the next best choice is the stationary bicycle. The upright or recumbent bike will work fine.

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that the bike is easier than the treadmill. Actually the FLLS PICS on a bike is like a thigh/cardio workout combined. It is less challenging on balance and functional core strength but is more challenging on your legs.

Get on a bike (in the manual mode) and warm up at level 3 and 75 rotations per minute (RPMs, or how fast you pedal) for 3-5 minutes. Adjust seat so that there is a slight bend in the knee of your extended leg (the leg that the bottom pedal is at lowest position).

We have two variables to make each challenge progressively harder: levels of resistance and RPMs. For intermediate clients (people with some exercise experience), after warm-up set the resistance to level 6 and pedal at 90 RPMs (get your speed up to 90 RPMs and then adjust the resistance level to 6). Do this for 60 seconds.

At the end of 60 seconds, sprint as fast as you can for 30 seconds, then bring down to baseline (resistance level 3 and 70 RPMs. Record your heart rate and wait until you feel recovered enough for the next challenge.

Increase speed by 5 RPMs and one level of resistance for each progressive challenge. In the above example, Challenge #2 variables would be level 7 and 95 RPMs; Challenge #3 would be level 8 and 100 RPMs, and so forth.

For beginners, the first challenge would start with resistance at level 5 and 80 RPMs. For advanced clients the first challenge would start with resistance at level 7 and 100 RPMs.

For the FLLS PICS performed on the stationary bike we use all of the exact same rules and concepts as on the treadmill. The rest periods start out short, but as each challenge gets tougher and tougher, increase the amount of rest/recovery. Your heart rate should be 7-10 beats higher on each challenge.

We can use the same blueprint of our FLLS PICS with any activity that elevates our heart rate:

  • 5-10 minute warm-up.
  • 5-9 one and a half minute challenges, progressively increasing each challenge.
  • Rest periods lengthen as challenges get more intense.
  • Check and log your heart rate on your FLLS PICS cheat sheet after each challenge. Typically your heart rate will increase 6-9 beats for each progressive challenge. For an average untrained, healthy client the heart rate after the first challenge will be around 135 BPM, 142 after the second, 149 after the third, 156 after the fourth, 163 after the fifth and 170 after the sixth.

Note: Do two sets of two abdominal exercises before each cardio session.

Conclusion

To make sure that you get the most bang for your buck, waking up in a fat-burning mode is a must, and it's not hard to achieve. If you have a normal schedule (work 9-5) and you eat dinner (small portion size) around 6:30 p.m., make sure that the only carbs you eat are fibrous veggies, green beans or salad. Eat no starchy carbs like potatoes, bread, pasta, oats, etc.

Part 1 | Part 2

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About The Author

Darin Steen is a Trainer & WNBF professional bodybuilder and will be sharing his wealth of knowledge to help as many people as possible get fit.

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