During an interview Steve Ilg, one of my favorite fitness trainers, was asked what separates a serious athlete from a recreational one. Without hesitation he replied, "Intervals". For those of you who follow this sort of thing, interval training has gotten a lot of attention the past few years.
What Are Intervals?
You have heard it called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or the Body for Life workout, wind sprints or God forbid fartleks, but it's all pretty much the same thing; the best, quickest way to get in shape, lose fat and annihilate your competition.
So what are intervals? In their simplest form, they're short bursts of high intensity exercise separated by periods of lower intensity effort. Keep in mind; it's not just high intensity training. Running a PR for a 5K is great, but not an interval workout. You need those lower intensity periods as well, not just sustained effort.
Without the recuperation of the low periods you'll never have the ability to make the tough parts as brutal as they need to be. It's those high intensity periods that bring the results, shoot your progress through the roof and sizzle the fat.
Ever see someone 40 pounds overweight finish a marathon and wonder how they manage to hang onto all that extra fat while obviously running so much? Intervals, baby. Long and slow sucks. I heard someone once say running long and slow teaches your body one thing, how to run slow. If that's all you're after, you can stop reading; I don't want you to be late for your water aerobics class.
Building Your Aerobic Threshold
Ahh, so you're interested in building up an aerobic threshold like a Kenyan or finally watch the fat drip off your thighs, welcome aboard. Let's take a look at a beginner interval plan.
Keep in mind you don't want to this kind of workout exclusively if one of your goals in endurance, you do need distance training at a more moderate pace. However, if all you want to do is trim the fat in the most efficient manner possible, look no further.
As you read the workouts below, you may notice I don't have strict percentages like 80% maximum aerobic threshold and whatnot like many training plans incorporating intervals do.
This is intentional because virtually no one trains with such precision and if you do, you're probably already incorporating intervals in your plan. The guidelines below will certainly get you close enough without the need for a calculator and EKG.
Beginner Interval Workout
15 minutes at whatever you consider a moderate pace, you should be able to talk in short bursts, but not carry on a normal conversation. As soon as the 15 minutes are up, you take off as fast and furiously as you can for a 60 seconds. When the 60 seconds are up, walk for another 60 seconds, and then take off again. Do this five times.
Related Video Intervals for Beginners
Watch The Video - 00:55
When you're at your highest intensity level, you should be running like somebody's chasing you, as fast as you can. When your five sets are over, do another 15 minutes at your moderate pace.
Intermediate Interval workout
When you're ready to progress from the beginner workout, try this on. 20 minutes at your moderate pace. Five 60-second sets at your highest effort level. Then five sets of 3-minute medium-high effort level sets with 60 seconds in between. This means you should be at an intensity you have a hard time maintaining for three minutes, in between your moderate and highest effort level.
By two minutes you should be hoping it ends soon. When that's done, walk for 60 seconds. Rinse, repeat, five times. When you're done with both interval sets, do 20 more minutes at your moderate pace. You will likely never progress beyond this level. If you do, you're probably not going hard enough.
Advanced Interval Workout
Do the same as the intermediate workout but add another five sets of 60-second intervals after the 3-minute session. Decide which shoes to wear during the Olympics.
These are not complicated (and shouldn't be) as you can see from above. Once you've been doing it for awhile you'll get a good sense of how hard you need to be working and you'll quickly see the results of your effort. These are excellent workouts to be done indoors where it is easy to control your speed and watch a clock. Do these right and your winter indoor workouts can be when you make the most progress.