Interval Training 'The Best Weight Loss Exercise
Weight Loss Exercise Principles
Aerobic exercise is fat burning exercise. As you do some activity using large muscles (legs, especially) that raises your heart rate but still allows you to breathe normally, your body will burn fat with the oxygen you're breathing. However, your body will only burn blood-sugar at first, because it's easily available. So, to get to the fat-burning stage, you have to exercise for at least 20 minutes, preferably 30 minutes or more. Walking and bicycling at a gentle pace are aerobic activities.
Anaerobic exercises are high-intensity exercises that get your muscles working hard, and you will have trouble breathing. The word "anaerobic" means "without air", meaning that you will be breathing fast, but still not getting enough oxygen to properly fuel your muscles. This leads to muscle strengthening, but it also means that you're burning blood-sugar only, not fat, and you end up with lactic acid that will make your muscles feel like they're burning. Weight training and sprinting are anaerobic activities.
You can keep doing aerobic exercise longer than anaerobic exercise, and you'll burn about equal amounts of calories overall doing either. Aerobic exercise burns those calories from fat during the exercise. Anaerobic exercise only burns blood-sugar, but burns a lot of fat later (the rest of the day) to replace the energy. Is it possible to combine the two, so that you can burn fat while exercising, and keep burning the rest of the day? Yes, with Interval Training.
How to do Interval Training
The "intervals" in Interval Training are alternating periods of high-intensity exercise with low-intensity rest periods. This allows a person to keep exercising for at least 30 minutes to kick in the effects of aerobic activity, but it is also intense enough to strengthen the heart and provide the long-term fat burning of high-intensity exercise. The idea is simple, but ingenious, and amazingly effective.
You can do interval training using a time-measure or a distance-measure. If you prefer to run indoors in a gym's track, then there is probably a clock to watch while running, so time would be more convenient to keep track. If you prefer to train outdoors, it may be inconvenient to look at your watch every few seconds, so going by distance will probably be easier. If you use time, you should run as fast as you can for one full minute, then walk for two minutes. After that, run again for one more minute and rest by walking for two minutes. Keep repeating this three-minute cycle until 30 minutes have elapsed overall. If you prefer to chart distance, you will want to run about a half-mile, then walk for one-quarter mile, and keep alternating that.
Benefits of Interval Training
World-class athletes already know that Interval Training is the best way to improve almost every aspect of running performance. The fist effect is that high-intensity leg exercise, like running, will make your legs stronger. That means more muscle mass, and each gram of new muscle will burn that much more fat every minute of every day. The second effect of high-intensity training is what people call "cardio". That's short for cardio-vascular training, meaning that your heart as a muscle will grow stronger. This will prevent many forms of heart disease, as well as improving circulation, which has benefits for many aspects of life.
The most important benefit of Interval Training is that it is the single best way to improve your VO2-Max. That is the volume (V) of oxygen (O2) that you take with your deepest breath (max). VO2-max is the best measure of fitness and endurance. Increasing your VO2-max with interval training will give you greater endurance for everything you do, and the higher your VO2-max, the less you will feel that heat or pressure on your lungs when you exercise. Believe me, after interval training for a week, you will know without a fancy test that your VO2-max is improving, and soon you'll feel the improvement with every training session. It's a great feeling.
Using the time method is better than distance to keep yourself honest, because as you get faster, your half-mile will turn out to take less and less time. So, to keep improving your performance, and keep losing weight, you should either get a stopwatch, or else keep making your running intervals farther and farther (to make sure they still last a whole minute).
As your VO2-max increases, you may be tempted to make your workouts last longer overall, or to make the high-intensity periods last longer. You should do neither of these things. Your goal should be to keep intervals of 1-minute of running separated by 2-minutes of walking, and keep increasing the intensity of each running interval. If you make every interval a sprint for one full minute, and keep that up for 40 minutes, you are already a superhero. Longer workouts risk breakdown of tissues and a high burden on your kidneys and other organs. And if you make each interval longer, you may not be pushing your speed the most you can, which is where the benefits are.
At the other end of the scale, if you're just starting interval training, go easy. Too many men start off too fast and burn themselves out within 10 minutes. That will not benefit you. Warm up with a fast walk or a gentle jog for 10 minutes or so. Then, try your first interval. It should be for one full minute, but just try for a pace a little faster than a jog. Then walk for two minutes. For your next interval, just try to maintain that fast jog pace for another full minute. Then walk again for two minutes. Don't sit down or stop if you can avoid it, keep walking to recover. On your third interval, try just a little faster. If you can't make it for the full minute, you have just found out where your zone is. The key isn't to try to sprint right away and only be able to go for 20 seconds. You have to do the full minute at a constant pace, as fast as you can sustain for one whole minute. I guarantee that it will be pretty slow your first time. But try it again the next day, and you will be better. By the end of two weeks, you'll be amazed how much more fit you've become. I promise.
About the Author
David "Mr. Weightless" McCormick is the founder of Weightless Products.