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Are you ready to change up your workout routine? Do you want to burn more calories without having to spend more time at the gym? Consider aerobic interval training (also known as high-intensity interval training) (HIIT). Interval training, once the domain of elite athletes, has evolved into a potent tool for the average exerciser.

What exactly is interval training?

It's not as difficult as you might think. Interval training is simply alternating short bursts of intense activity (about 30 seconds) with longer intervals of less intense activity (about 1 to 2 minutes).

For example, if you walk for exercise and are in good shape, you could incorporate short bursts of jogging into your regular brisk walks. If you're less fit, you could alternate between leisurely walking and faster walking. If you're walking outside, for example, you could walk faster between certain mailboxes, trees, or other landmarks.

What benefits can I expect from interval training?

Whether you're a novice exerciser or you've been exercising for years, interval training can help you make your workout routine more exciting. Consider the benefits:

  • You'll burn more calories. The more vigorously you exercise, the more calories you'll burn — even if you increase intensity for just a few minutes at a time.

  • You'll be more time efficient. Many people don't exercise because they say they don't have time. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
    Interval training enables you to complete an effective workout in less time than a standard cardiovascular workout. For example, you might complete a workout in about 15 to 20 minutes or less instead of 40 minutes.

  • You'll improve your aerobic capacity. As your cardiovascular fitness improves, you'll be able to exercise longer or with more intensity. Imagine finishing your 60-minute walk in 45 minutes — or the additional calories you'll burn by keeping up the pace for the full 60 minutes.
    Improving your cardiovascular fitness can also help reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

  • You'll keep boredom at bay. Turning up your intensity in short intervals can add variety to your exercise routine.

  • You don't need special equipment. You can perform intervals walking, running, biking or swimming. Or you can work out on an elliptical trainer, treadmill or exercise bike. Interval training can also include body-weight exercises, such as jumping jacks, squats and lunges.

Are the principles of interval training the same for everyone?

Yes, but interval training can be taken to many different levels. If you simply want to change up your workout routine, you can adjust the length and speed of each high-intensity interval based on how you feel on that particular day.

After a few minutes of warming up, you could increase the intensity for 30 seconds before returning to your normal pace. Finish with a cool-down period. It is entirely up to you how much you pick up the pace, how frequently, and for how long.

If you have a specific fitness goal in mind, you may want to take a more scientific approach. A personal trainer or another expert can assist you in timing the intensity and duration of your intervals, which may include movement patterns similar to those used in your sport or activity. The intervals may be timed by the trainer based on factors such as your target heart rate and your heart and lungs' ability to deliver oxygen to your muscles (peak oxygen intake).

Is there a risk to interval training?

Interval training is not suitable for everyone. Consult your doctor before beginning any type of interval training if you have a chronic health condition or haven't been exercising regularly.

However, it may be appropriate for people who are older, less active, or obese. Interval training appears to be safe and beneficial even in people with heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to research.

Keep the possibility of overuse injury in mind as well. You may injure your muscles, tendons, or bones if you begin a strenuous workout before your body is ready. High-impact exercise, ballistic or jumping movements, or heavy weights are not required for interval training.

Instead, take it slowly at first. First, limit yourself to one or two high-intensity intervals per workout. Slow down if you think you're going too fast. As your stamina improves, try changing up the pace. The results may surprise you.

Interval Training for Beginners

  1. 0.5 mile warm up. 

  2. Stretch and do drills. 

  3. Run 400 meters at your goal 5K pace 

  4. Recover for 400 meters. 

  5. Repeat the run-recovery cycle for a total of 4 fast spurts and 4 recovery laps (4 x 400 fast and 4 X 400 at slow, recovery speed).

  6. 0.5 mile cool down. 

  7. Stretch and do drills.

High Intensity Interval Training Workouts for Beginners

Run/jog at a brisk pace for 30 seconds. Jog/walk at a slower pace for 2 minutes. After your rest, shoot for another 30-second run/jog. Continue until you get tired or after about ten “push/rest” intervals.

Interval Training Workout Routines

Rope Jumping

Get a jump rope and you'll have a simple, low-cost way to incorporate high-intensity interval training into your workout routine. Jumping rope, when done correctly, can improve cardiovascular fitness, balance, agility, and strength. 1 Do single jumps for a minute or two to feel the burn while burning calories.

Running Up the Stairs

Running the stairs is an excellent interval workout that requires little time or equipment (all you need is a set of stairs). Running has similar cardiovascular benefits. Stairs are an excellent way to increase sprint power. 2 Burpees

Burpees are regaining popularity. This simple but effective exercise works your entire body, particularly your cardiovascular system. 3 Begin by standing tall, then squat down and place your hands in front of you on the floor. Kick your feet back into a push-up position as quickly as possible. If you want a really tough exercise, do a push-up while you're here. You can also simply return your feet to the starting position, jump high in the air, and repeat.

To learn how to do burpees correctly, watch this video.

Shuttle Races

Shuttle sprints are a common agility and speed drill used by athletes in stop-and-go sports such as soccer, hockey, basketball, and tennis.

Set up two markers about 25 yards apart to do shuttle sprints. One repetition is to sprint from one marker to the other and back. Try to do ten sprints at once. Shuttle sprints can be done forward, forward and backward, or side-to-side.

Spinning

If you join a spin class, you'll most likely do some high-intensity spin intervals. However, you can use your home trainer or go to a spin class during the off-season to create your own interval workout. When you combine the bike with some other bodyweight exercises, the workout will go by quickly.

One of the most popular forms of indoor exercise is riding a stationary or spinning bike, which provides a low-impact, high-intensity cardiovascular workout while also building strength and endurance.

Squat to Press 5 Dumbbell Squats

Weights are a simple way to increase the intensity of an exercise. Combine a dumbbell squat and an overhead press for a full-body workout that works your arms and shoulders, core, quads, and glutes. 6 chin-ups

The pull-up exercise necessitates some basic equipment or some ingenuity (for example, go to a playground or find a sturdy low-hanging tree branch), but it's a great, simple way to build upper body strength.

Seven Push-Ups

Standard push-ups are a simple, no-equipment total-body exercise that improves upper-body and core strength.

This compound exercise, when performed slowly, engages muscles in the chest, shoulders, triceps, back, abs, and hips.

Weighted Walking Lunge

Walking lunges will help you build endurance, strength, and balance.

Almost every type of athlete will benefit greatly from this exercise.

If holding a weight overhead while doing a walking lunge feels awkward, start with a broomstick or an empty barbell until you feel more comfortable with the movement.

Abdominal V-Sit Exercise

Finish with a minute or two of ab work before calling it a day. The v-sit is a challenging core exercise that works the rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques. 10

This exercise works the hip flexors as well.

running interval workout

What is interval running?

Interval running is a method of structuring your running workouts to allow for increased intensity and aerobic improvement while spending less total time per workout.

Regardless of age or specific health goals, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommend that healthy adults aged 18–65 engage in 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise 5 days per week.

Alternatively, you can meet this recommendation by engaging in vigorous aerobic activity for at least 20 minutes three times per week (1).

Interval running is a great way to improve your aerobic fitness while spending less time per workout. It also adheres to the ACSM's recommendation of at least 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise three times per week.

How do you go about running intervals?

To warm up for interval running, do a few minutes of light jogging. Following that, the majority of the workout consists of brief bursts of high-intensity running, followed by periods of lower-intensity jogging, walking, or even rest.

The high intensity pace for interval running exercise is greater than what you can physically sustain for 30 minutes, and the lower intensity pace allows for a brief recovery before the next high intensity pace.

Each interval period is 10–60 seconds long at high intensity and 10–60 seconds long at low intensity. These are referred to as "duty cycles" by coaches.

The duration of each duty cycle, as well as the ratio of high intensity to low intensity time in each cycle, varies depending on your specific fitness goals, conditioning level, and available workout time.

The work-rest ratio is a key variable in designing interval running programs because it compares high intensity to low intensity.

When compared to a traditional running program, the structure of interval running programs allows for far more time spent at higher intensities.

When compared to longer, slower jogs, the higher intensity improves your maximum aerobic capacity and works more muscle fibers overall.

The Advantages of Interval Running

Interval running has numerous advantages. These include the traditional benefits of aerobic exercise, such as a lower heart rate and blood pressure. Interval running, on the other hand, causes additional adaptations due to the intensity level reached during the hard intervals.

Interval running studies show a variety of overall health benefits, including the following.

  • improved capacity to utilize oxygen, including in older adults

  • a decreased resting heart rate

  • a decreased resting blood pressure

  • decreased risk factors for cardiovascular disease

These benefits are similar to those associated with traditional longer duration running at slower paces.

However, research suggests that interval running offers additional benefits over traditional running, including:

  • reduced workout durations for similar results

  • improved performance during sprinting with anaerobic intervals

  • increased use of fat for energy

  • increased insulin sensitivity

  • increased muscle mass growth when using anaerobic intervals

Potential risks of interval running

Interval running, when compared to traditional running, is a safe way to improve cardiovascular health through shorter duration workouts.

Nonetheless, there are a few risks associated with interval running. These are largely due to the increased intensity and impact of the faster-paced intervals.

During faster running, the impact on the ankles, knees, and hips is greater.

You'll most likely be sore after your first couple of interval workouts. While muscles can adapt quickly, it takes longer for your joints and bones to adjust to this stress.

To reduce the risk of injury, begin interval running slowly at first. If you're new to running, start with 10-minute jogs with a brief sprint at the end twice a week for four weeks to get used to it.

If you've run before but never with intervals, start with the beginner program and consider doing a single cluster for the first few weeks, with at least two full days between sessions.

Your body will adapt to stress better if you don't overload it too quickly and allow for adequate recovery.

If you haven't exercised in a long time, a brisk walk for the high intensity interval and a slow walk for the low intensity interval may suffice.

To reduce the impact, avoid hard surfaces such as concrete or asphalt if at all possible. Interval running is best done on a rubberized track, grass, or other softer surfaces.

Finally, between four-week sessions, always take an active rest week. A few short jogs or walks will keep you fit while your body recovers for the next phase of training.

The Bottomline

Interval running is a quick and easy way to boost your aerobic and anaerobic fitness, as well as your cardiovascular health. Interval workouts, in general, require less total time than traditional distance running and allow for higher intensities during the workout. 

You can adjust your intervals to target different energy systems in your body, depending on your specific goals. The most important thing is to start slowly and gradually introduce interval training, especially if you are new to running. Interval running is an excellent way to incorporate intense aerobic and anaerobic exercise without committing to long traditional workouts.