Interval training workouts alternate between high and low intensity during an exercise to improve the benefits of the exercise. Generally speaking, there are two types of interval training: fitness interval training and performance interval training. Fitness interval training is suitable for general fitness and is recommended for beginners and intermediate athletes. Performance interval training workouts are recommended for seasoned athletes. Altering the activities and exercises being performed will also offer different types of interval training workouts.
Most people taking up exercise begin with continuous exercise, such as walking or running at a set pace, but interval training instead alters the pace throughout the workout, such as alternating between running and jogging at two minute intervals. Interval training workouts provide a recovery stage, making the athlete better able to perform during the intense workout phases. As a result, interval training can improve strength, endurance and calorie consumption for a leaner, fitter body.
Fitness interval training workouts aim to raise the heart rate to about 85 percent of the maximum target during the exertion phases. The athlete should be breathing heavy but still able to talk. Activity during the recovery phase should maintain the heart rate at somewhere between 50 percent and 60 percent of the maximum target.
Periods of intensity and recovery are set in advance and will depend on the exercise being performed and the fitness level of the individual. For instance, a beginner just taking up running might run for one minute followed by two minutes of jogging or walking before running for another minute, and so on. With experience, equal periods of exertion and recovery can be used, or the ratio might even be reversed, with two minutes of running followed by a minute of jogging.
Running is often associated with interval training workouts, but other aerobic activities are suitable as well. Interval training can be used with swimming, cycling or even jumping rope. Variations on running, such as sprint drills or stair running can add variety to a workout.
Generally, interval training workouts use intervals of no more than five minutes each. Shorter bursts of activity allow the athlete to work harder during these phases without slowing or faltering as the exercise progresses, thus building strength and burning calories. Longer intervals help to increase endurance, and interval lengths can be selected for the desired effect.
Other methods can be used to increase intensity as well. Added resistance can be just as effective as added speed. For example, running over hilly terrain will provide periods of high and low intensity without the runner altering his or her pace at all.