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Interval Training


Updated June 25, 2014

Man in a gym on a rowing machine drinking water
Gary Burchell/Digital Vision/Getty Images
If you've ever been on a cardio machine, looked at the clock and had the terrible realization that you've only been exercising for 10 minutes (and you still have 30 minutes to go), you'll be happy to know there may be a better way: Interval training. Steady state training has it's place in any workout routine, but a dose of interval training may be just what you need rejuvenate your workouts.

Athletes have been using interval training for years to increase performance, but you don't have to be an elite athlete to get the benefits in your own training. Changing up your workouts and alternating higher intensities with recovery periods will make your workouts more interesting while helping you burn more calories in shorter workouts.

What Is Interval Training?

Unlike staying at the same pace or intensity during cardio, interval training involves alternating segments of high intensity exercise with periods of rest. This allows you to work more in a shorter period of time and it's much more comfortable than spending the entire workout at a high intensity.

Another plus is that it works for all types of exercisers. For beginners, aerobic intervals offer a safe and comfortable way to push out of the comfort zone and, for seasoned exercisers, anaerobic intervals make workouts more challenging and effective. It's even been shown to improve patients with COPD and metabolic syndrome.

The key is to create workouts that fit what you can handle and what you want from your workouts.

The Benefits of Interval Training

  • Increased endurance - Interval training actually trains your heart to pump more blood to the muscles and it trains your muscles to extract that oxygen more efficiently, making all your other workouts easier to handle
  • More efficient workouts - If you don't have much time, interval workouts are great timesavers, allowing you to get a lot done in a shorter period of time
  • More fuel efficiency - Interval training enhances your body's utilization of fats and carbs
  • More power and endurance - Working at high intensities raises your lactate threshold and can improve your performance
  • Reduced risk of injury or overtraining - Because you're varying intensity, you may be able to avoid overuse injuries or overdoing it with longer workouts
  • More fun - Interval workouts have much more variety than other workouts, making them less tedious
  • Weight loss - Studies show that interval training, even at a moderate intensity, may burn more fat and, if you work hard enough, can increase after burn


While there are a number of benefits, interval training isn't for everyone, particularly high intensity interval training or anaerobic training. Anaerobic intervals are very challenging on the body and, if done too soon or too often, can lead to injuries or overtraining. It's important to ease into interval training and gradually build more stamina over time to avoid these kinds of problems.

Next: Types of Interval Training - Aerobic Interval Training

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