Interval Workout Basics

Interval Workout BasicsInterval training is one of the most effective ways to get fitter and burn more calories. The concept is simple and works for any piece of home fitness equipment. Constantly varying the intensity and anticipating your next recovery or push makes these workouts fly by. Increasing post workout demands for recovery, burns calories even after your training session ends. If you’d like to break out from preprogrammed settings and create your own customized workout, here are a few basic ways to include intervals in your workout routine.

Hills/Resistance: Whether you’re running or walking on your treadmill or elliptical, you can increase the incline to up the intensity without increasing the impact on your joints. Increasing resistance also works well for indoor cycles, mimicking the challenges of outdoor terrain. Increase your incline for one to two minutes, followed by recovery periods of approximately two minutes. This simple workout will get your heart pounding and improve your core strength while also training your quads and glutes to meet the demands of your summer activities.

Speed: Using your home fitness equipment for steady cardio sessions results in training your slow twitch (i.e. endurance) potential. Adding speed to train your fast twitch muscle fibers has a lot of benefits, including power for short periods of demanding exercise (like moving furniture or a round of summer softball) and increased calorie burn to maintain these metabolically hungry muscle fibers. You can build in brief periods of sprinting on your treadmill, elliptical or indoor bike to give you some of the benefits of a speed workout, without the wear and tear on your joints.

Heart Rate: With Polar Heart Rate monitors integrated into consoles of treadmills, ellipticals and exercise bikes, this is a remarkably easy way to gauge the intensity of your workouts. Design your own intervals on the fly by using speed and resistance to increase your effort, bringing your heart rate to at least 85% of your maximum. Alternate these pushes with recovery periods, returning your heart rate to below 70% of your maximum. Using heart rate rather than time ensures that your body is fully recovering during the easier periods of your workout and that you are pushing sufficiently during the hard periods, making your workouts more effective and keeping you strong to the finish.

Just one session per week will let you gain the benefits of interval training. As you adapt, shoot for two to four sessions per week. It’s easy to over train, so keep a recovery day between interval sessions to avoid injury and exhaustion. Enjoy your next workout and the benefits of interval workouts in your training plan!


Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. To find out more, visit the Meet Our Writers page.

5 Ways to Keep Running Fun and Boost Your Motivation

Female_Pair_RunningLet’s face it, sometimes running can be a drag. Whether it’s because we run the same old route or distance, or we’re just lacking the love, trying the following five fun-boosting strategies can lift the spirit of your workouts and inspire you to once again run happy.

1. Mix up the terrain. Get out of your running route rut and run your normal route backwards. You’ll be amazed just how different everything looks and how much joy a fresh route will bring. You can also spice up both your indoor and outdoor workouts by adding hills to your flat route or find a trail to make the most of a shade-filled run through nature.

2. Shake things up. It’s easy to get into the habit of running the same 30-40 minute workout during the week. Although it’s a great way to maintain fitness, once your body adapts to it, you burn fewer calories because it becomes easier. That’s the good and not-so-good news. A simple way around it is to vary the intensity of your runs during the week to include a variety of workouts. It will freshen your running recipe so you look forward to the next workout. Here are a few examples:

  • Interval Workout: Run hard for 30 seconds to 60 seconds followed by 2 minutes of walking or easy jog – eight times. This is an effective metabolic booster and a great way to burn calories and fat for hours post workout.
  • Tempo Workout: Warm up and cool down running easy for 5-10 minutes, then run at a comfortably challenging effort for 15 minutes. This is a workout that requires focus, but feels fantastic and raises your threshold allowing you to run faster at an easier effort level down the road.
  • Recovery Run: Exactly like it sounds – an easy run that allows you to keep the momentum flowing but gives you a break from the higher intensities.
  • Endurance Workout: Typically run on your off work days, run for 60 or more minutes at a conversational effort level to develop your fat burning enzymes and aerobic endurance.

3. Make it social.  There isn’t one run that I’ve done with a buddy or group that didn’t make me smile or make the time go by quickly. Research has shown that people who exercise socially (with people) can go longer and harder than when alone. Plus, you can solve the world’s problems, discuss the TV series you binge watched the night before, or the plot twist in your favorite book. Invite your friend to hop on the treadmill next to you, join a running club or training group and keep your running fun alive. You just may improve your performance along the way.

4. Run musically.  Create a special running mix for your next workout and you just may run faster than you think you can. That’s because research suggests exercising to music can boost your ability to run harder and longer. Create a musical workout to boost motivation by starting and finishing with two songs that have a slower rhythm to warm up and cool down. Then alternate a fast paced song with a slower song 4-6 times and match your speed to the tempo of the music to get in a musical interval workout. The time will fly, you’ll love this workout, and will count the days until you can run it again (promise!)

5. Register for a race.  The old adage of dangling a carrot on a stick can be enough to brighten any runner’s gloom. Whether a 5K or a half marathon, once you commit, every workout has a purpose and inspires you to prepare for the challenge ahead. If you’ve been racing, try something new to spice up your routine; a triathlon, trail race or obstacle course. When you challenge yourself, you will rise to it and make the most of every workout.

Every runner goes through highs and lows over time. The highs lead to improved performance and impressive accomplishments, while the lows (if you listen) can guide you to making the changes needed to continue to evolve.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Ask an Expert: Best Running Surfaces

Running SurfacesI typically run on the sidewalks around my neighborhood – is this bad for my joints? Is there any benefit to switching it up and running on different surfaces like the road, grass, loose gravel, etc.?  -Sarah

Running on a variety of surfaces is a great way to mix up your routine, boost your motivation and improve your running performance. The key is to learn about the pros and cons of each to make the best choice for your personal running life. Here is a list that will guide you in the right direction.

Sidewalk

  • Pros:  A safe, out of the line of traffic place to run, especially in urban areas and in the darkness. Many sidewalks, if in good condition, provide a predictable and even (not cambered) terrain, which allows for better running form and alignment.
  • Cons:  The concrete sidewalk surface is much harder than asphalt and create greater impact forces on the body versus the road, track or path. You may need to stop and start to cross streets, navigate pedestrians and other obstacles on the sidewalk throughout your run, not allowing for a continuous flow and pace.

Street/Road

  • Pros:  Running the roads can be as inspiring as a scene out of Forrest Gump.  There are a plethora of options and roads to explore and you can start right outside your doorstep or hotel room. The asphalt is easier on the muscles, joints and tendons than the sidewalk. Although there still may be some points you’ll need to stop and go for lights and traffic, you can generally get into a continuous running tempo.
  • Cons:  Many road and streets are cambered with a crown or peak in the center and an angle toward the side of the road. Running on an uneven surface can create muscle imbalance and alignment issues including knee and ITB pain as one leg is landing slightly higher on the ground than the other. Safety is an issue, especially with high speed traffic and distracted drivers. Always be sure to run against traffic to see and be seen.

Paved Bike Path

  • Pros: This terrain is the little black dress for runners. It offers the stability of an evenly graded sidewalk, with the forgiveness of an asphalt road, without automobile traffic. Many paved bike paths are marked so it can be a good way to develop your pacing skills and perform speed workouts as you can run uninterrupted.
  • Cons:  Although beautiful, many of these bike paths run through secluded areas and forests. Always run in groups, carry ID and cell phone and be aware of your surroundings. Keep your ears to the path so to hear bike and recreational traffic coming from behind you.

Crushed Limestone Path

  • Pros:  Perhaps one of the best terrains for running, limestone paths are typically flat to slightly rolling, evenly graded and very forgiving on the body. Less impact on the body means more efficient recovery and progression in your performance. They offer a safe haven from automobile traffic and a tranquil running environment. Many of these trails are can be found in parks and forest preserves, are well marked for distances and have bathrooms along the way.
  • Cons:  Unless it is outside your door or work, limestone path runs may be best suited for longer training runs or weekend excursions when you have more time to getting there.

Single Track Trail

  • Pros:  These trails run through the heart of forests and back country and undulate with the terrain. They are narrow and organic which makes for a truly unique running experience. It’s not uncommon to run over rocks, tree roots and across streams. Every step demands your attention making it a zen-like running workout. Similar to mountain biking, it develops running strength and finesse and decreases the risk of over use injuries due to running in the same wear pattern on more predictable terrain.
  • Cons:  You are running well off the beaten path in an isolated area where animals, bugs and adverse weather may cross your path. Technical trail running is energy demanding and like mountain biking or downhill skiing, it requires time to adapt and learn the optimal skills to run efficiently.

Track

  • Pros:  Your local high school track is a safe place to run your mileage as you’re off the busy streets and out of traffic. Most tracks are measured and marked where four laps equal one mile and therefore it is a great way to learn how to pace yourself naturally. All you need is your shoes and a watch or timer. The track is also a predictably flat surface and a great place to learn to run and perform speed workouts. A bonus benefit: many tracks are made from a forgiving rubber material that it easy on the muscles, tendons and joints.
  • Cons:  Unless you live by a track, getting there can be a hassle for the busy-minded runner and some tracks have limited public access usage. Running in a circle can become monotonous for some runners who enjoy the sense of exploration.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Rest Stop Fitness: Easy Workouts While Traveling

Rest Stop FitnessTravel is a mainstay in my personal and professional life so if I want to practice what I preach, I have to find creative ways to get in exercise when I’m on the road. I’ll admit, at first, it seemed overwhelming because I wasn’t able to duplicate my home routine. The secret to my on the road exercise success is in thinking outside the box. Coincidentally, that was also when my traveling workouts got really fun!

Although it may seem like a challenge to find ways to stay fit on the road, the truth is, there are opportunities everywhere you look. The key is to plan ahead, be mindful, and get creative. Here are three fun 10-minute workouts to stay active while traveling on the road.

Lace up your shoes!  Wear your exercise shoes when driving and you’re one step closer to getting in a great workout on the move. Stop at a rest stop area and perform 30-second intervals to boost your circulation, heart rate and burn calories (it’s also a great way to stay energized and awake at the wheel).

Start out by walking easy for one minute to loosen up. A great place to do this is on the grass or sidewalk to avoid traffic in the parking lot. After one minute, pick up the pace to a power walk for 30-seconds, and follow with walking easy for 30 seconds. Repeat this nine times for a total of nine minutes of heart pumping activity. If you want a more challenging option, pick up the pace to a run for 30 seconds and walk it out to recover. Finish with the following three stretches and you’re off.

  • Chest Stretch: Interlock your fingers behind your lower back. Relaxing your shoulders, keep your arms straight, squeeze your shoulder blades together and raise your hands up toward the ceiling until you feel a stretch in your chest. Perform this stretch on each side once for 30 seconds.
  • Hip Stretch: Using a mat, towel or the grass, kneel on your left knee with your right foot forward. Your right knee should be aligned over the ankle. Relax your back leg and focus on pushing your right hip forward and up towards the ceiling. Reach to the sky with both arms and clasp your hands together for a full body stretch and hold for 30 seconds. Perform this stretch on each side once.
  • Calf Stretch: Stand with your feet hip width apart and your hands on your car just above your shoulders. Move your right foot back about 2-3 feet and bend your left knee.  Keep your right foot on the ground and hold for 30 seconds. You’ll feel this stretch in your back calf.

Jump to it! Remember how much fun jumping rope was? There’s a reason professional fighters use it as a training mode – it’s quick and easy way to get in a high intensity cardio workout that will boost your metabolism for hours. Toss a jump rope in the car for your next trip or, compromise with jumping jacks instead. Try this jumping workout to get your heart pumping and burn a ton of calories.

Walk around at an easy pace for one minute to loosen up. Then repeat the following intervals for five times for a total of ten minutes. You’ll feel like a million bucks after this hard core cardio workout.

Rest Stop Circuit. This workout will help loosen your tight muscles, keep them active and strong and burn calories. Walk around for two minutes to loosen up and perform the following four exercises for one minute each. Repeat a second time and follow with the three stretches mentioned above.

  • Caterpillars: Start in push up position on a mat. Perform three push-ups and then push your hips up towards the ceiling into a downward dog position (in the shape of a V, with your hips elevated to the ceiling. Hold for 5 seconds. Slowly walk your feet one at a time to your hands keeping your legs straight (bend your knees if this is challenging). Hold for 5 seconds with your hands on your feet (or shins) and feel the stretch in your hips and hamstrings. Slowly walk your hands forward and into push up position and repeat again for a total of one minute.
  • Walking Lunges: Stand with your feet hip width apart on stable ground (sidewalk).  Take a long step forward with your right foot and kneel down towards the ground by bending your knees until your forward leg is parallel to the ground. Press up and through your heel and take another step forward and kneel toward the ground. Make sure to line up your knee over your ankle as you move forward.  Repeat for one minute.
  • Squat: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Sit back as if you are going to sit in a chair until your legs are at a 90-degree angle with your thighs parallel to the ground, making sure your knees are over your ankles (not toes). Reach your arms straight out in front of you to shoulder height for stability. Pause and hold for two seconds and then press your heels into the ground, extend through your legs.  Repeat slowly for one minute.
  • Calf Raises: Stand with your feet hip width apart and the balls of your feet at the edge of the curb so your heels are off the ground. Bring your arms out to the side for stability. Raise up on your toes and hold for two seconds and then release down until and through the full range of motion with your heel lower than the curb and hold for two seconds. Repeat this for one minute.

Staying fit on the road is easier than it sounds, and once you get started, the options are endless along the way.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.