If you aren't dropping the pounds like you expected with your steady-state cardio, you should think about shaking things up with some interval training.
It can be awful discouraging when you spend hours on the treadmill or elliptical but see no difference on the scale. Exercises like walking, jogging, rowing, or even swimming may improve your heart health and tone your muscles, but many individuals end up disappointed when there is little change with their weight.
This is a common complaint with cardio workouts. Great for conditioning – not so good for melting away the pounds.
What is Interval Training?
Quite simply, interval training is a combination of both high-intensity and low-intensity cardiovascular exercises. A brief high-intensity interval is followed by a low-intensity (resting) interval.
You could jog for 3-4 minutes at an easy pace and then speed up for 15 seconds, then pick it up so more for another 10-15 seconds, then slow it back down to a jog.
Repeat the intervals 4-5 more times before doing a cool-down and you are done in less than 20 minutes. Replace one or two of your weekly workouts with this plan and you should notice a change in your conditioning and your weight loss.
This same interval training concept can be used on exercise bikes or elliptical trainers. The style of Interval training – combining periods of high and low-intensity exercises in the same workout – can be more successful and less boring than steady-state cardio.
Studies have shown that successful interval training for weight loss is directly connected to the intensity of your workout. You will still get results even if you don't push yourself to 85%-100% or you're MaxHR, but the greatest weight loss will be seen when you give it all you've got.
The greater the intensity during the Sprint intervals, or the more energy that is used during the anaerobic period, the longer it will take your body to replace these energy stores.
Not only will you get the maximum benefits of your workout, but you will also be burning more calories for hours afterwards.
Your interval training workout for weight loss should be designed specifically for you. The sprint intervals should get your heart rate to where you want it to be (70%-100% of Max HR, depending on your goals).
We all have a maximum heart rate which is found by simply taking the number 220 and subtracting our age. So if you are 40 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 180. Your target heart rate zones will be anywhere between 50% to 90% of your maximum heart rate.
Here is an example of a 65% and 85% target heart rate for a 40-year-old. You’ll notice that for a target heart rate of 65%, this individual will want to keep their heart rate at 117 beats per minute as they exercise.
65% Intensity: (220 − (age = 40)) × 0.65 → 117 beats per minute
85% Intensity: (220 − (age = 40)) × 0.85 → 153 beats per minute
If you are a beginner you should keep your target heart rate in a range of 55% to 65%. As your cardiovascular condition gets better you can slowly move to a 70% - 75%.
It's important to note that the target heart rate is recommended for individuals that don't have any health problems. Please take the time to check with your physician to be sure this type of intense exercise is ok.
Interval training for weight loss can be as structured or as casual as you want. Some people wear an interval timer and a heart rate monitor while others just randomly add high-intensity bursts throughout their workout and take their own pulse.
You have to figure out what works best for you. However, if you are new to interval training or if you need a more disciplined workout, then it is a good idea to plan your routine ahead of time.
You are more likely to stick to it and put forth your best effort if you are not letting your feelings dictate your actions. So, if you are ready to begin your interval training journey, here are some basic steps to help you get started:
Choose an aerobic/cardio activity. Almost any exercise can be used for interval training as long as you are able to increase the speed/intensity. Running, walking, swimming, rowing, cycling are just some examples. Machines such as treadmills, stationary bikes, and elliptical machines are also great choices.
As already mentioned, you can take your favorite activity and turn it into a form of interval training for weight loss. All you have to do is vary the intensity levels.
The interval times given below are only examples and guidelines. Keep in mind your personal goals and fitness level when deciding on your Work to Rest Ratio. Here are some ideas to help inspire you.....and remember to warm up and cool down!
Interval training for weight loss can be a great workout routine to lose weight and tone the body. Many people turn to interval training because it really works. Plus, you can choose an activity that you actually enjoy, so you are more likely to stick to it!
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I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or if you have any ideas you want to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum.