by John W. Mitchell
A few years ago my personal physician enrolled his entire practice in a national study to measure the effects of patient behavior modification as a form of preventative medicine. He was an older doctor who believed that patients can help themselves quite a bit with healthy lifestyle changes, such as becoming more physically active. He even took $5 off a patient’s co-pay if they would ride their bike to an appointment.
It was during this study that I discovered interval training. Interval training is the simple concept of alternating intense bursts of energy with a normal pace. It yields quick results, especially for anyone who has not been active. Consider my routine, for example. I walk at a brisk pace for 10 minutes, followed by a 30 second jog, then a 15 second sprint as fast as I can go and finally 60 seconds of brisk walking. I repeat this rotation EIGHT times. I finish with a brisk 10-minute walk back home.
The really great aspect of interval training is that it’s relative to your own ability. Your brisk walk, jog and sprint may very well be faster or slower than mine – it doesn’t matter. You are training your body to be active and to tolerate intense bursts of physical activity when you need it (think of the fight or flight response). My doctor told me that running my interval training three times a week provides the same benefit as jogging eight miles. And interval training can also be done on a bike or any exercise equipment.
Here are five reasons to start interval training.
- You Are Afraid of or Hate Exercise
You can walk, right? Vary your walking pace and you’ll no doubt be working a jog and run into you routine in no time. And walking doesn’t take any equipment other than a comfortable pair of shoes.
- You are Over 50
I ran and jogged for years without any difficulty – no aches or pains, no knee or hip trouble. But then in my early 50’s I started getting these wicked mini-muscle tears in my thighs. I don’t have pain or injury with interval training.
- You Don’t Have Time
Anyone can find less than 30 minutes three times a week. And you can listen to those podcasts you never have time for while running your intervals.
- You Are Recovering From or Have an Injury
I started running intervals while I was recovering from a jogging injury. I also know people with back pain who find interval training helps diminish their discomfort as their core strength improves.
- You Want to Change Up Your Routine
Even if you are already physically active, our bodies like it when we work muscles in different ways. Intermingle your regular physical activity – such as stretching or weight lifting – with interval training.
John W. Mitchell has served from sailor to CEO. He lives and writes on the Western Slope of Colorado, where on most days his wife loves him more than her horse. He is an unexceptional – but persistent – athlete who hikes, bikes, skies downhill and cross-country, goes mushroom hunting and plans on running intervals until the day he dies. You can read his blog “The Power of Dumb Thinking” at http://snowpackpr.com/