Don't let your fitness routine hibernate: try cardio intervals


This time of year can feel like we're preparing to hibernate. We are constantly presented with opportunities to eat like crazy and reasons to slow down our exercise. Our to-do lists seem to take up every waking minute (as well as some I-should-be-sleeping-now minutes). We're spread thin. We're busy!  

So, what to do? As with most everything, my favorite mantra applies to this situation: something is always better than nothing. If you don't have time for your regular exercise routine, consider interval training to maximize the time that you do have.

Use intervals to maximize the efficiency of your workout.  
Believe it or not, a short interval workout can be just as effective at building and maintaining cardiovascular fitness as a significantly longer endurance (steady-state) workout. Here are some examples to get you started.

Beginner:
Choose your favorite cardio machine or activity for this workout:
  1. Warm up for five minutes, gradually build to moderate intensity.
  2. Add one level of intensity per minute for 5 minutes (on the treadmill this can be speed or incline, for other machines use level or resistance).
  3. Return to your starting level and recover for two minutes.
  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3, one to three times. After your last interval, skip the two minute recovery and go straight to Step 5.
  5. Cool down for five minutes, gradually bringing your heart rate back down.
This workout will last 22-36 minutes.

Intermediate:
Choose your favorite cardio machine or activity for this workout:
  1. Warm up for five minutes, gradually build to moderate intensity.
  2. Increase level of intensity (speed, incline, resistance, or level) to about 85% (or until you are not able to carry on a conversation but you aren't totally maxed-out). Maintain this level for 30 seconds.
  3. Return to your starting level and recover for one minute.
  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 5 times (for a total of six intervals). 
  5. Repeat Step 2 then recover for 30 seconds. Repeat five times (for a total of six intervals). After your last interval, skip the 30 second recovery and go straight to Step 6.
  6. Cool down for five minutes, gradually bringing your heart rate back down.
This workout will last 25 minutes.

Advanced:
Consider trying HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or the "Tabata Method" (read more here). Choose your favorite cardio machine or activity and complete 6-8 intervals:
  1. Warm up for five minutes, gradually build to moderate intensity.
  2. Go 20 seconds at maximum effort (sprint).
  3. Rest for 10 seconds.
  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 until you complete 6-8 intervals (or as many as you can do- it may be fewer than 6).
  5. Cool down for five minutes, gradually bringing heart rate back down.
This routine should take a maximum of 14 minutes.

Don't forget to stretch when you're finished. Now, get back to baking those Christmas cookies!




*Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a personal trainer. I am sharing sample workouts that work for me. Please be sure that you consult your doctor before starting an exercise program and for any questions about whether performing these kinds of exercises is safe for you.

2 comments:

claire_gray said...

Great advice Allison. I love doing intervals... gets my heart rate up, burn some calories and is quick and easy. One of my new favorite intervals is running up and down the bleachers at the local highschool. I warm up for 5 mins, run up and down as fast as I can for 1 min. I bring my heart rate down by jogging around the track for 2 mins, then back to the bleachers. I do this for 5 reps. It is amazing at how fast the heart rate will raise running up and down those bleachers!

Get Natured said...

The bleachers and track are a great idea, Claire!