high intensity interval training

Get Out of Your Cardio Rut by Incorporating Cardio Interval Training

Have you hit a major training plateau with your cardio workouts? Well then, you have come to the right place. Here you will learn all about how to jump start your workouts and burn off fat that has seemed super glued to your body, despite many long, boring cardio workouts. The key is incorporating intervals into your cardio workouts.

What are Cardio Intervals?

Cardio intervals are basically interjecting short, more intense bouts of exercise followed by active rest periods. Regardless of what type of training you do; running, biking, swimming, rollerblading, dancing, and etc-interval training can be incorporated. The important thing with cardio intervals is to make sure that during intense bursts, your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) goes up at least a couple of notches, but only so high as to allow you to continue exercising, going back and forth between intense exertion and a baseline pace or resting pace for the duration of your workout.

Benefits of Interval Cardio Training

The Truth about Cardio: While it is true that cardio exercise for long periods of time at 50-65% of your maximum heart rate, such as 60-90 minutes, gets most of the energy needed from fat, you will experience a greater number of total calories burned, including more fat burned, by incorporating interval training.

1. Time Efficient:

Do much more in much less time. By exercising at a more intense pace, the same or more calories, including fat, can be burned in significantly less time.

2. Makes Heart and Lungs Stronger:

Cardio interval training works both the aerobic (requires oxygen) and anaerobic (does not require oxygen) pathways. By using both systems together, you can train much more intensely, and for a longer period of time, without experiencing such a significant amount of lactic acid build-up in the muscles. This type of training allows for great gains in your level of fitness, and a much stronger and more efficient heart muscle as your heart is able to pump more blood with each stroke.

3. Gain and Maintain Lean Muscle Mass:

Cardio intervals will build more lean muscle mass than traditional cardio and will maintain the muscles you build. Doing only traditional cardio actually does little for changing your physique. You may lose weight, or decrease in size, but to reshape your body and really attack those problem areas, changing your body composition is very important, and this is done not only by burning calories and losing fat, but by building lean muscle mass as well.

4. Alters the Way Your Body Stores Food for Energy:

The great thing about incorporating interval cardio workouts into your training plan is that many of the benefits come after you are done exercising, in how the body becomes accustomed to the changes. If you only engage in slow traditional cardio training, which primarily burns fat for fuel, your body will be sure to store enough fat for the next slow cardio workout. However, if you throw in some cardio intervals that use the anaerobic system as well, where muscle glycogen plays a significant role, energy will be stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver so that it is ready for future interval workouts. Another bonus is that after more intense cardio workouts are complete, your body will continue to burn calories for 2-4 hours afterward.

5. Interactive/ Less Boring:

The time will go much faster. Adding cardio interval workouts to your fitness routine will keep things exciting, and will hold your interest for a longer amount of time.

Sample Cardio Interval Treadmill Workout for Beginners (21 minutes)

Warm-Up: 5 minutes at a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 3-4: Warm-Up should be at an easy pace.

Rest Set/Baseline: 3 minutes: RPE: 5: Increase speed from warm-up and maintain this moderate pace.

Work Set: 1 minute: RPE: 6-7: Increase intensity, you should be working harder.

Rest Set: 3 minutes: RPE: 5: Decrease speed back to a comfortable level.

Work Set: 1 minute: RPE: 6-7: Maintain intensity-work hard!

Rest Set: 3 minutes: RPE: 5: Decrease speed back to comfortable level.

Cool Down: 5 minutes: RPE 3-5: Decrease speed, lower heart rate, and cool down.

Note: Intensity can be adjusted in various ways such as creating an incline, increasing resistance, speed, etc.


If you are experiencing a plateau in your training, or are looking for a way to jump start your workouts, cardio intervals will help get you where you want to be. Adding some speed and intensity intermixed with traditional cardio will not only facilitate fat loss, but will change your body composition all together, making you stronger and leaner all around as you incorporate both the aerobic and anaerobic systems into your workouts.

Cardio intervals will also make your workouts more time efficient, and will keep things challenging and exciting. Try adding cardio intervals to your fitness program a couple of times a week, and see what a difference it can make for you.

Interval Training

I think most people come to a point in their life where the whole aging process topic enters their thoughts. In our youth we spend so much time waiting to be old enough to do this or that (legally), and then all of the sudden we get to a point where we are grabbing those aging reigns and pulling stinkin’ hard, frantic to change all those bad habits that at one point, no doubt we were invincible from, right?

As one of those people who have strolled down the anti-aging cream aisle once or twice, considering a purchase or two, I must admit, it’s a scary thing to realize your age may be starting to get the better of you. BUT, before you head out and pay for one of those fake-looking faces with the giant lips many are walking around with, where the skin does not match up with the tautness anywhere else on the body, let me introduce you to an idea that can take a decade off your age: INTERVAL TRAINING.

Advantages of Interval Training

According to Amy Ashmore, PhD, our hearts beat more slowly and pump less blood as we age. There is also a decrease in our lung capacity. Our muscles depend on oxygen like an automobile depends on fuel. This decrease in oxygen consumption by the muscles is one significant reason why we grow weak, lose stamina, and slow down as we age. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise on a regular basis can reduce our biological age by 10 years or more.

Another way aerobic exercise reduces biological age is by enhancing mitochondrial function. Mitochondria are cells that are in charge of energy production. They convert energy into a chemical form that cells can utilize. Cells can create more energy when mitochondria are efficient. Activity level correlates with improved mitochondrial function.

The harder a person exercises, the more significant the mitochondrial changes, leading to bigger diminution of biological age over the lifespan. Interval training is one of the most successful ways to train at a high enough intensity to significantly increase oxygen demands and ultimately slow aging.

What is Interval Training?

Interval training by definition is a type of physical training that involves bouts of high intensity work intermingled with periods of low intensity work. Intervals can also be more specific being a series of predetermined distances covered at regular time increments with alternating periods of rest.

Interval Training Benefits

1. Improves Aerobic Capacity:

In essence the cardiovascular system is able to do more work. You can exercise longer with more intensity. Interval training will also decrease your circulatory stress which is evidenced by a lower resting heart rate.

With interval training, the factor that becomes significant is the rate of recovery. Scott Nohejl, a champion rowing coach and founder of the Chatham Area Rowing Association in Savannah, GA, says, “It’s not about how fast your heart is beating. It’s how fast it slows. If you walk a block and can’t walk another one until the next day, your rate of recovery is horrible. You have to make the heart compress to its whole capacity.”

2. Enhances Lactate Threshold:

Lactate threshold is the point during exhaustive, all-out exercise at which lactic acid accumulates in the blood faster than the body can remove it. Accumulation of lactic acid is debilitating and signals the beginning of the end of high intensity exercise. Interval training increases the threshold at which lactate starts to accumulate allowing the athlete to exercise at a high intensity for a longer period before they are slowed down.

3. More Effective at Inducing Fat Loss:

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, “short, high-intensity exercises burn more calories than longer, low intensity aerobic workouts.” Because of the metabolism boosting effects of high intensity intervals, more calories are burned and therefore more fat is lost.

Things to Know in Designing a Basic Interval Training Workout

1. Duration (time/distance) of Intervals:

How long or far are you going to run, bike, row, etc. Interval time can either be short (6-30 seconds), or long 2-3 minutes or more, or cover a distance from just a few yards to 800 yards or more.

2. Duration of Rest/Recovery:

How long will you rest between each interval? Rest/Recovery can either be complete rest or active recovery of lower intensity. The shorter the interval, the faster the recovery will be. Longer intervals will likely require a longer recovery period. As a general rule, you will want to rest long enough to slow down your breathing and relieve any muscle burning and fatigue.

3. Number of Repetitions to be Performed:

How many interval repetitions will you do? This will depend largely on your fitness level. It’s a good idea to start with a set number in your mind but then LISTEN to your body. Continuing to push through fatigue and muscles that don’t seem to be recovering can actually do the opposite than intended and hinder performance.

4. Intensity:

How hard are you going to push it? Shorter, max interval training will be faster than longer interval training as pace will be altered slightly to allow athlete to maintain pace over allotted time.

5. Frequency of Interval Workouts:

How often are you going to engage in interval training? Generally, interval training two times per week is enough. Few athletes profit from doing more than that. A general rule is that there should be at least 48 hours of recovery before another high intensity workout is considered. The body needs time to repair and regroup. It is helpful to perform a low intensity, low volume workout the day after interval training, as this facilitates recovery.

Summing It Up

The benefits of interval training are recognized by coaches and athletes all over the world, but you don’t have to be a competitive athlete to see results. Just give it a try. Next time you go for a run, or ride the stationary bike, or whatever you like to do for cardio, throw in some higher intensity bouts, it’s that easy. (Always a good idea to check with yoru doctor to make sure this type of training is safe for you).

These bursts of high intensity work, and rest periods go a long way in helping anyone improve their cardiovascular system and make it more efficient, all the while burning significantly more calories than low to moderate intensity exercises of the same or even shorter duration. So, before you go out and spend a bunch of money trying to make just the outside of your body look younger, try interval training, and make your whole body look and feel younger.

That’s what really matters anyway, right? After all, how young is the woman with the surgically enhanced face really going to look when she is hobbling around with a cane?