Jazz up Your Fitness Program

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

One of the best ways to jazz up your fitness program is through interval training. Interval training is nothing more than a way to vary your exercise routine to boost your workout efficiency and progress. Athletes regularly engage in interval training exercises to raise the bar for their performance. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a sophisticated athlete to enjoy the benefits of interval training.

Interval training is the process of alternating short and intensive periods of exercise with slower, easier movements. Interval training is highly effective for jump starting an exercise program that feel stale or boring. You can realize significant improvements with a basic interval training program.

Benefits of Interval Training

Interval training is much more efficient than traditional training programs because it forces our aerobic and anaerobic systems to workout. When you engage in high intensity, quick bursts of exercises your body uses anaerobic energy to function. This process involves use of stored glycogen in the muscles to provide us with the energy we need to function. Anaerobic literally means working out ‘without oxygen.’ Our bodies produce lactic acid during anaerobic exercise. During a high intensity session, your body enters a state referred to as ‘oxygen debt’. While this may sound scary, it can actually result in a higher tolerance for endurance exercise and improved long-term performance.

Studies, including those from the American College of Sports Medicine, suggest that short, frequent bursts of increased or high intensity exercise may contribute to greater caloric burn during physical activity. Thus if you want to burn the maximum amount of calories during an exercise session, your best bet is to engage in periods high intensity sessions.

Of course, it is important you create balance in your exercise routine. Short and high intensity bursts of exercise should accompany steady, lower intensity exercise for you to realize maximum results. Let’s say for example you normally walk 2 miles. Instead of just walking two miles, you can vary your routine by including short, 1-minute ‘runs’ into your walking routine. These will charge up your body and help condition your muscles and lungs.

Here are some tips for making the most of your interval training:
  • Start out slowly. If you are a beginner be sure to include modest intensity intervals when first starting out.
  • Take time to warm up enough before and after workouts.
  • Build up the number of intensity sessions you include in your workout over time.
  • Consult a trainer for tips on various intensity routines you can incorporate into your regular exercise sessions.
  • Avoid overtraining. Allow at least one day between high intensity interval sessions.
Overcoming Exercise Plateaus

Intensity training can help you overcome your next fitness plateau. Exercises plateaus, or periods where few gains are seen, typically occur six to eight weeks into a new fitness routine. While you probably realize good results up to eight weeks of time, after this your body gets used to an exercise routine. Because of this it is important you vary your exercise routine periodically.

When your body adapts to your exercise program, interval training can help restart your program. It helps by adding variety and intensity to your exercise program. You can also help overcome a plateau by changing the form of exercise you engage in (from biking to jogging) or by working your muscle groups in different ways. Resting can also sometimes help us overcome plateaus, especially if we are overtraining. Overtraining causes our body to shut down and stop responding to constant stimulus, no matter how hard we work out. Some signs you may be overtraining include excessive routine, lack of significant results and constant soreness.

Remember our bodies are made to adapt to changes in our routine. It is important you vary your workout occasionally to get your body in the best physical shape possible. Here are some great alternative exercise routines for you to try if you find you have hit a plateau.
  • Spinning
  • Kickboxing
  • Step aerobics
  • Yoga
  • Team Sports
If changing your exercise routine or getting some rest doesn’t help jump start your fitness program, you may have to re-evaluate your goals or even your diet. It is impossible that external factors are influencing the lack of progress you are feeling in the gym. Remember, when done properly, exercise is something that can benefit everyone. The next time you are at the gym, try mixing up your routine a bit. You may find you are pleasantly surprised by the outcome.