Interval Training for Beginners

Interval training, often recommended by fitness experts, combines high intensity exercise with lower intensity intervals to allow the body to recover. Alternating higher and lower intensity exercise helps build stamina and endurance, as well as increase calorie burn and the overall effectiveness of your workout.

Advantages of Interval Training

Interval training offers several advantages over a standard workout, including:

  • Burns more calories
  • Increases cardiovascular health
  • Keeps workout varied, preventing boredom
  • No additional equipment is necessary, just slight modifications to your existing exercise routine

With all these advantages, it seems natural to step up your regular workout into interval training. It’s easy to do, with only a few simple shifts to what you’re already doing for regular exercise.

How to Organize an Interval Workout

As a general rule, an interval workout should follow this pattern:

  1. Warm up
  2. Low intensity
  3. High intensity
  4. Low intensity
  5. High intensity
  6. Low intensity
  7. Cool down

Warming up is vital to successful interval training. Warm up sessions should run about five minutes to prevent injury, and cool down sessions should run about the same amount of time.

In the body of the workout, high intensity sessions should be shorter than low intensity. While this might sound complicated, it can be as simple as turning up the speed or the incline on your treadmill for a minute or two, turning it back down for three minutes, then back up for a minute.

A walking routine can be easily converted to an interval training session by adding short spurts of jogging with longer stretches of walking.

Preventing Overexertion

For the beginner, it’s always tempting to jump into a new routine and give it everything you’ve got. Instead of jogging for those high intensity bursts, you decide you’ll run. More is better, right? However, if you’re just starting a new exercise program, more can be too much. The last thing you want to do is strain a muscle or otherwise hurt yourself on your first time out, making it hard to establish a new routine. Pushing yourself too hard will also turn what could be a fun workout into a painful chore, and discourage you from maintaining a regular exercise pattern.

To manage the level of intensity, use a Perceived Exertion scale. This scale, while not scientific, provides an easy-to-use scale to judge how hard you’re really working. The scale runs from one to ten, with one being no exertion at all, such as sitting on the couch watching TV, and ten being extreme exertion, such as running full-tilt down the road after your runaway dog.

For the interval training beginner, low intensity sessions should have a perceived exertion level of about three to four, while the high intensity sessions should step it up to a four or a five. As you become more accustomed to the approach and build more endurance, you can step up your exertion levels for even better results.

Just making these slight, but powerful, changes can bring your everyday fitness routine to a higher level. Give interval training a try and see how much better you feel, and how much more quickly you shed the pounds and build the muscle you’ve been striving for.


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