Step up your workout with interval training
Bored with your workouts? What better time than now, the beginning of a new year, to rev up your fitness routine. Research tells us interval training not only improves fitness, but helps burn fat faster than steady-state aerobic exercise. While the steady-state routine, where you work pretty much at the same intensity throughout, remains an effective workout, interval training offers a fun and interesting way to add variety and burn more calories in shorter periods of time.
What is interval training?
Simply put, interval training is alternating short bursts of more intense movement with intervals of lighter intensity. You may choose almost any type of exercise and select your own speed and intensity to fit your fitness level, and you may do intervals in gyms or at home, or take it outside, even with swimming. Interval workouts range from beginner's level to a workout called Tabata, which is very high-intensity training (usually full-out intensity) and geared toward advanced exercisers.
There are many variations of interval training. Here are two popular versions:
Cardio intervals: This workout varies the intensity of cardio movements, such as alternating a three-minute walk with a one-minute run for 15 to 20 minutes. If you're not into running, try a brisk walk.
Strength-cardio intervals: This total body workout adds cardio movements between strength exercises. (It's one of my favorite ways to work out.)
Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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TIPS for a strength-cardio interval, using the exercises at right:
• For the strength exercises, do eight to 10 reps per exercise (one to two sets), and avoid heavy weights.
• Cardio bursts, between sets, should last 20 to 30 seconds, building to a minute.
• Repeat the pattern for the desired length of time, changing the strength exercise between sets.
• Always warm up and cool down.
• Do not use weights for cardio bursts.
• Modify or change the exercises as you wish.
Tuck and Reach: This balance exercise strengthens the whole body. Holding weights, a medicine ball or just using your body weight, stand on one leg, abdominals contracted. Tuck in knee toward chest, with elbows at sides. Extend leg to the back, while reaching out with arms. Repeat tuck and straighten; repeat on opposite leg. (Cardio: Jump rope or pretend you are jumping rope.)
Lateral Raise with Calf Raise: This is a good exercise to strengthen shoulders and calf muscles. Standing tall, abdominals contracted, hold light weights at your sides. Keeping back straight, raise arms with a slight bend to elbows, shoulder height. At the same time, lift heels off floor as high as you can. As you lower heels, slowly lower arms to original position. (Cardio: With knees bent, hop touch side to side, using skater arms. If you want to avoid hopping, substitute a step touch, taking wide steps with slightly bent knees.)
Crossover Lunge With Biceps Curl: This balance exercise targets the quads (front of thighs), glutes and biceps (front of upper arms). Holding weights by sides, keeping back straight, contract abdominals. Bend one knee, bringing other leg diagonally behind you. As you straighten up, extend back leg to side, while performing biceps curls: Elbows by sides with palms facing up, curl lower arms toward shoulders, slowly lowering weights back down; avoid wrists curling inward. (Cardio: Do the shuffle. With relaxed knees, shuffle feet forward and back in a scissor motion while pumping arms forward and back.)