Stop start tactics burst through the exercise plateau

By Susan Edmunds

Interval training boosts fitness.

Interval training burns more calories. Photo / Getty Images
Interval training burns more calories. Photo / Getty Images

If you have been regularly pounding the pavement or doing laps of the pool for a while now, it might be time to give your workout an extra boost heading into summer.

People who do any form of cardiovascular exercise often find that they reach a plateau: their fitness does not seem to be improving, they are not losing any more weight and they are getting bored with their workouts.

If this sounds like you, interval training is a good way to kickstart your regime.

Interval training is a term used to describe any cardiovascular exercise - for example, walking, jogging or swimming - that alternates periods of high intensity with phases of rest or low intensity. The high intensity portion is usually done almost to the most extreme level of exertion you can handle, such as sprinting as fast as possible for 30 seconds to a minute. The low intensity period allows the heart rate to drop again and for you to recover before you power into another maximum-exertion phase.

As a fitness regime, it works your aerobic and anaerobic systems.

During the high-intensity phases, the anaerobic system uses the energy stored in your muscles. This causes oxygen debt and lactic acid to build up, prompting the burning sensation you can feel in your muscles during a workout.

In the low-intensity, recovery portions, the heart and lungs work on repaying that oxygen debt and break down the lactic acid. Oxygen is used to convert stored carbohydrates into energy.

The rest intervals are important. Research has shown that interval training is more effective at burning calories than regular cardio exercise.

Interval training stops your body getting comfortable. The constant changes in exertion and level of intensity force your body to work to adapt. You build new capillaries and become better able to deal with oxygen. Muscles build up a higher tolerance to lactic acid.

Training in short bursts also helps prevent injuries that can occur in endurance exercises - you can increase the intensity of your workout without burning out or hurting yourself.

Before you begin, warm up sufficiently. Start slowly and set goals that are achievable, gradually building up the number of high/low intensity phases you do in your workout.

A basic interval training workout

* Warm up for about five minutes - jog gently, gradually increasing the effort you put in over the warm-up period.
* Sprint for a minute
* Walk for a minute
* Repeat 10 times
* Jog for five minutes to cool down.

- NZ Herald

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