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        FITNESS TIPS FOR 1/6/2003 

Interval Training for Fat Loss and Fitness
by Maia Appleby

What is interval training?
The theory behind interval training is this: By mixing bursts of high 
intensity work with low intensity periods of recovery, you're 
overloading both the aerobic and anaerobic systems at the same 
time, getting the benefits of both aspects of training 
simultaneously. You can realistically get a complete workout in 
thirty minutes with interval training. 

How is interval cardio training done?
Start at an easy pace and gradually increase your heart rate for at  
least five minutes. You can monitor this by taking your pulse for 
fifteen seconds and multiplying it by four or using a heart rate 
monitor (here's a cool one that also keeps track of calories!)  When 
you're sufficiently warmed up, you're ready for a burst of high 
intensity work. If you're on a treadmill, break into a jog or a sprint, 
depending on what "high intensity" means to you.

During the high intensity periods, you're decreasing your body's 
ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. You begin to feel 
the "burn" as your body eliminates lactic acid (a toxic by-product) 
and your muscles begin to lose their ability to contract. You 
wouldn't physically be able to maintain this level of intensity for 

When you begin to wear your muscles out, decrease the intensity 
level to something that you could maintain for a longer period. 
Don't slow down so much that your pulse dips too low, though, or 
you will lose the aerobic effect completely. Now, you're in the 
"active recovery period". Your body's ability to exchange oxygen 
and carbon dioxide increases and it can deliver nutrients to your 
muscles. The burn goes away and your breathing and heart rate 
slow down slightly. You have completed one cycle.

Repeat this process of maxing out and recovering your 
anaerobic system for at least thirty minutes. The high intensity 
periods should be shorter than the active recovery periods, 
especially at first. You might walk for five minutes and then run 
for one when you begin to introduce your body to this type of 
training. As you become more adept, increase the time you 
spend in high intensity periods. Forcing yourself to sustain 
long periods of high intensity activity is dangerous, so do use 
caution and work yourself up gradually.

Why is it good? Here are four big reasons:

1. It saves time. If you normally spend an hour and a half in the 
gym following the traditional sequence, you'll work yourself just 
as hard in 45 minutes with interval training. Finding time to 
exercise is a big problem for (I dare say) most people. Here's a 
great solution.

2. It's a great way to get beyond a plateau. I'm by no means 
claiming that interval training is better than the traditional, 
tried-and-true warm-up, weight training, cool-down sequence, 
but when you stop seeing improvements in your physical 
condition, it's time to do something new and different. Throwing 
a couple days of interval training into your exercise regimen 
each week tells your body that it's time to get over the plateau 
and make additional progress.

3. It combats monotony. Once a routine gets boring, you might 
decide to do different weight lifting exercises or change around 
your aerobic activities. You might stop using weight machines 
and switch exclusively to free weights. Interval training can 
help you during the transition period between one exercise 
program and another. It's fun, and the time flies by during 
each session, because you're working in cycles of high and 
low intensity work instead of spending a long period of time 
at any one activity.

4. It's easy! You can do an entire workout without moving from 
one spot. You set your own rules, using your body's cues, so 
you feel completely in control of the workout. There's no counting 
involved and the time seems to go by much more quickly. 

How can it help me lose weight?
By challenging both you aerobic and anaerobic systems 
simultaneously, you're improving your body's ability to burn 
calories by leaps and bounds. You're adding new muscle, which 
speeds up your metabolism of fat in general. You're getting an 
aerobic workout that burns lots of calories. You're pushing 
yourself beyond any plateaus that you may have hit doing the 
same thing over and over again. Your body is becoming a more 
efficient fat-burning machine.

What activities can I use for interval training?
The possibilities are endless, but the most practical are probably 
walking/running, other cardio vascular machines like stair 
steppers, elliptical trainers and stationary bikes, aerobic exercise, 
water exercise and things like that. You could even incorporate it 
into jumping rope or a sport like racquetball. If you want to be 
creative, you can really make fitness fun.

How often weekly interval training?
If you're a beginner, throw in one session a week, along with your 
normal routine. If you're more seasoned, two or three times a 
week is great. This is a demanding form of exercise, so use 
common sense and listen to your body.

When you're finished with your workout (and you'll be surprised 
at how quickly you get out of the gym doing this), your muscles 
have been taxed in a brand new way and need to be stretched. 
Don't skip this part! You'll feel great when you leave, and your 
body will thank you by improving its condition to prepare itself 
for the next time.

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