There are several approaches to reducing impact injuries common to sustained aerobic training. This entry will focus on a strategem used by trainers in a variety of settings. Virtually every training situation, from rehab to sports training, can benefit from interval training. Generally defined, an interval is a short period of time during which exercise intensity is increased. To a jogger, an interval is a short sprint mixed in before returning to normal pace. A walker on a treadmill might increase speed or elevation for a few seconds, then return to their sustained speed. Any temporary increase in intensity constitutes an interval. There are many uses and benefits to this approach, but the first task is to clarify the term intensity.
Remember that intensity is a relative term. Trainer Pete Bendig of Iron PsychWorks puts it clearly: “ Intensity is how much of what you can do are you now doing.” Bendig continues: “ A six minute mile is extremely intense for some people, but for some runners it’s easy. The important thing is to adjust to each client or athlete.” There are several tools to gauge intensity. Trainers can track exercise heart rate or simply ask for feedback from the client. The second method, the Rating of Perceived Exertion, or RPE, has the client simply rate from 1 to 10 how hard the exercise feels to them. More information on heart rate training and RPE is available by contacting Iron PsychWorks www.ironpsychworks.com directly.
The benefits of interval training are many, and are of value to just about anyone. Interval training has been shown to burn more calories than continuous training. The period of heightened intensity also recruits more muscle fibers, increases circulation and stimulates the nervous system. Even daily activities like walking up stairs require short bursts of power relative to walking on a level surface. For the athlete, interval training specifically targets the anaerobic systems of producing speed and power for competition. A basketball player might run steadily for 90 seconds, then sprint at near maximum for 30. Consistent use of intervals are effective at helping athletes reduce accumulation of lactic acid so they can work harder for longer times before the “burn” shuts them down. Even patients in a rehabilitation setting benefit from a momentary bump in intensity. In this case the patient may walk steadily at 2 miles per hour for 3 minutes, then slightly increase speed or incline for 30 seconds. Note that by adjusting the variables we can customize the intervals to each client. By following a few basic rules, interval training can be applied to a vast array of training scenarios. One final note is that mixing the intensities has a great way of breaking up the workout into smaller pieces and keeps the client engaged. The best thing about interval training is that it works. Whether the goal is weight loss, sports conditioning, rehab or just to keep the training lively, interval training works...very well.