I actually discovered the benefits of interval training by accident. While riding my stationary bike at 12 mph one morning, I became bored after about 1 hour into my workout. So I decided to vary the speed and intensity. I would pedal as hard as I could for 30 seconds, and then pedal at about 12 mph for 1 minute. I kept doing this for 30 more minutes. After the workout, I was astounded that I had burned a lot more calories than had been burned in previous workouts.
I did not know it at the time, but I was using an effective tool for cardiovascular fitness called interval training. I was able to burn more calories without spending a lot of time. What is interval training? It's simply alternating brief, high intensity bursts of speed with slower speed during a workout.
Interval training conditions the body to break down lactic acid more efficiently. Lactic acid is a by-product of anaerobic respiration. During the high intensity phase of interval training, the body does not use oxygen. Instead, the body breaks down a complex carbohydrates called glycogen, which is found in muscle tissue. This is anaerobic respiration. The breakdown of glycogen produces lactic acid along with energy for muscle contraction.
As lactic acid builds up during anaerobic respiration, an oxygen debt is created. During the recovery phase of interval training, this oxygen debt is paid back during aerobic respiration. Oxygen from the lungs combines with blood glucose to produce energy for muscle contraction. At the same time, excess lactic acid is broken down and removed from muscle tissue.
It is believed that by using interval training to break down lactic acid during practice, the muscles adapt and burn lactic acid more efficiently. During competition or regular exercise the athlete will be able to perform at a higher intensity for a longer period of time before fatigue occurs. Fatigue occurs when the body accumulates an excess of lactic acid causing the muscles to cramp.
Whether you are just beginning to exercise or have been exercising for many years, Interval training can make a difference in cardiovascular condition. Consider these benefits:
• increased tolerance to the build-up of lactic acid, resulting in faster speed, and endurance
• Burns more calories in a shorter period of time
• Helps reduce muscle and tendon injuries
• Reduces boredom in that variation is involved
• Special equipment is not required
Interval training can put place great demands body organs such as the lungs, heart, and muscles. So it is important to see your physician before you start interval training. If you are a beginner, start with shorter intervals – 15 to 30 seconds. Seasoned athletes can increase the time and intensity of exercise. It is recommended that interval training be done no more than 2 to 3 times a week. Exercise normally during the rest of the week. Lastly, remember to always warm up and cool down properly by stretching so as to prevent injuries.