The question: What sports or activities give you a good interval workout?
The answer: Any activity can be turned into an "interval workout" as long as it includes periods that are more intense than what you consider "normal," and isn't completed within a consistent heart-rate range, or at a consistent perceived level of exertion.
Although most sports, especially team sports such as soccer or hockey, are inherently interval workouts, any cardiovascular activity can be converted into an interval workout.
As a triathlete I use intervals to mix up my running, swimming and biking sessions so I don't die of boredom.
There is a misconception that interval workouts are only suitable for athletes or advanced exercisers. The trick is you have to tailor the speed and resistance of your intense interval relative to your fitness level.
For example, if you are new to exercise, your regular treadmill speed may be 2.0 and your fast speed may be just 2.2 – that's great! Interval workouts don't have to include sprints, just periods where you work slightly harder than normal.
My favourite analogy is the feeling of city versus highway driving. After driving on the highway, city driving feels slow. Your perception of a normal speed has changed. The intent of interval training is to gradually increase your fitness so that higher intensity work feels more normal.
Try this 30/20/10 interval workout on any cardio machine:
- Warm-up for five minutes.
- Do five to 10 sets of 30 seconds at your regular speed, 20 seconds at a moderate speed and 10 seconds fast.
- Do five minutes of moderate work.
- Repeat the intervals for five to 10 more minutes.
- Cool down for five minutes.
Trainer's tip: When I train with a friend, I love completing the partner-interval workout below. It can be done running or biking outside, or on any machine. Just make sure they are next to each other so you can communicate. Start after a warm-up, with each partner taking turns being the trainer and saying "go." If outside, sprint toward a destination of the trainer's choice. Inside, speed up on your machine for however long the trainer decides. The trainer can make the workout as hard or as easy as they want by changing how often, and how long, the intervals are!
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.
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