How to Get the Most Out of Interval Training

How to Get the Most Out of Interval Training

I love interval training, ask any of my clients or friends. I’ll do intervals on the elliptical, outdoors on a run, on the beach with bodyweight exercises, really anywhere. You might find it strange that I enjoy interval training so much, but who doesn't love completing a super great workout in under 20 minutes? My view is never too horrible either as you can tell. From learning about interval training through my certification and writing workouts for myself and for clients, I’ve realized that there is a right and a wrong way to do intervals. Here are my recommendations for a successful interval workout:

  1. Make Your Workout Short: Interval training should not take a long time. If you are doing intervals for an hour, you’re either killing yourself or not working hard enough in your work interval. My interval workouts last anywhere between 15-30 minutes total.

  2. Allow Adequate Rest Between Intervals: Start with a 1:2 work to rest interval if you aren’t accustomed to interval training. Once you’ve been doing interval training for a few weeks, you can go to 1:1 and then 2:1 work to rest intervals. Intervals are a form of anaerobic exercise (basically, you can only keep up the exercise for a few minutes before your body has to quit). This is different than aerobic exercises such as steady state running, where you can keep going without rest. If your work intervals are any longer than a minute, you likely aren’t using the right energy system and therefore aren’t getting the most out of your workout.
  3. Work HARD: During your work interval, you shouldn’t be able to string more than a few words together comfortably if you try talking to someone. Be sure to track your heart rate, especially if you aren’t accustomed to interval training, so you can make sure you’re safe. Tracking your heart rate also allows you to be sure you’re working hard enough once you are completing interval workouts more regularly.

So where should you start? Try 7-10 intervals where you are doing an exercise for 30 seconds and resting for a minute. Yes, lucky for you, it’ll only take 15-20 minutes! One example would be running (or sprinting) for 30 seconds, followed by very slow jogging or walking for a minute, and completing this 7-10 times until you are fatigued.

One more very important note: don’t do interval training more than 2-3 days a week. Your body needs 48 hours of rest between interval training sessions.

Forget Your Workout Routine and Live Actively

Forget Your Workout Routine and Live Actively

I get asked a lot, “what does your fitness routine look like?” Well, I have a general idea now, but nothing nearly as structured as you’d think. My outlook on fitness has changed completely over the past year and a half as a personal trainer. Instead of worrying about burning the most calories possible, I focus on living actively. The more time I spend off the couch the better, whether it’s a workout, walking my dog, windsurfing, golfing, or stand up paddling.

Before moving to Maui, I was all about planning out my workouts for the week, month, even year. I had so many goals for myself that I set a strict plan that involved a lot of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and progressive LISS (low-intensity steady state exercise). I was getting to the point of four+ HIIT days a week, and 45-60 minutes of LISS every other day. I was burnt out and sick of spending an hour and a half a day working out. Fitness became punishment and I was so focused on getting stronger, faster, and leaner that I didn’t even realize it. I would spend hours working out, then sit exhausted on the couch for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, I also see this happen a lot with clients, friends, and family.

I am definitely not oblivious to the fact that living in Maui and not spending time at an office job makes living actively easier for me. However, there are changes you can make no matter where you live. Use your weekends and time off for new experiences, rather than the same routine. Spend your time learning yoga on YouTube, or trying out a new workout class that you’ve heard about. Go to a museum or farmers market. Even if it has nothing to do with fitness, it will lead you to learn to break your routine and move more. More importantly, don’t think of your fitness routine as an hour a day, because that leaves out the other 23 hours.

I believe that your routine shouldn’t be strict, but this is not to say I don’t believe in goal setting. If you are passionate about seeing strength gains or improving your 5k time, formulate a plan. But if you are focusing on improving your strength, for example, don’t do HIIT on your other days to try and torch thousands of calories because you will get burnt out.

So keep on working out and setting goals, but stop being so serious about it. Enjoy your life and what your body allows you to do because you are lucky to have the freedom to move!