Updated: May 19, 2020
Let me start by saying that I rather work a sweat lifting weights, climb a mountain, split or log heavy pieces of wood than to do “cardio” but I’d like to clarify what I think about Interval Training.
It seems that the older I get the more workouts are being reinvented all over again – “old school” workouts can be “good school” workouts – so, what is new? I am sure that those of you that served in a military branch remember the grueling days (and nights) of intense training. The skinny kids got bigger and strong, the fat kids got tinier and lost weight – what is wrong with that?
Then the 80’s came along and the fitness boom started. We all got a little fatter and we all made more money, so we had to go get fit didn’t we? We went to the gym and what did we see there? treadmills and exercise machines – loosing fat running like a hamster and isolating our muscles was the name of the game. If Jane Fonda and Arnold Schwarzenegger could do it, so could we, right? Wrong….. we got fatter and fatter although we were “in-shape.” The military recruits kept on doing interval type of exercises: they ran hard, they dropped down, they did push-ups, they carried heavy stuff around and they pulled themselves up. AND, they did this over and over again, and again, and again – sounds like Interval Training doesn’t it? What an idea, you train in intervals and you see the results fast – why did we not use these concepts in the gym? Well, you cannot make a lot of money providing those training methods in the gym, it does not look as sexy as the leg-press machine or the elliptical machine.
What else happened is that the rehab and the cardio research world influenced our gym workouts: “Check out this exercise man, it isolates my pinky flexor muscle” (or whatever ludicrous muscle isolation) was the language in the gym. The cardio buzz was this: “If you run longer than 90 minutes you burn fat” – I would rather see paint dry on the wall than run even for 15 minutes. Give me the hard sweat from lifting things up and down and I’m happy.
Now that you know my personal opinion about training I’ll get serious. What is Interval Training?
I am sure that for a long time athletes of all kind used interval training to get stronger, bigger or faster but it was not until the famous exercise physiologist Per-Olaf Astrand found out that by breaking up a workout in smaller segments that more total work could be performed at a higher intensity; fitness levels improved faster – no more 90 minute runs needed. This pretty simple concept was the start of what we current refer to as Interval Training.
Now, for the science geeks like me, it seems that Interval Training accomplishes almost everything besides changing dippers. Not only does Interval Training improve both aerobic and anaerobic fitness (Tabata et al. 1996), it also improves several important health factors. Vascular health (Rakobowchuck et al. 2008) improves, cardiovascular disease risk factors drop down (Tjonna et al. 2009) and Interval Training can reverse the dreadful obesity associated metabolic syndrome (Tjonna et al. 2008). Also, muscle physiology improves or increases when exposed to Interval Training as it’s enzyme activity increases (Gibala et al. 2006; MacDougall et al. 1998; Talanian et al. 2007), as well as it’s oxidative capacity to process carbohydrates and fat (Burgomaster et al. 2008; Chiliback et al. 1998).
Although the above benefits of Interval Training can make significant changes in our health; it can even save your life, unless you are getting close to having a conversation with the eye in the sky it probably is not convincing for most folks. But wait, their are more goodies associated with Interval Training!! It can make you loose weight – now your clients are interested and will start listening to reason and research.