Whether you are someone who’s always working out and in shape, or someone who exercises here and there, you know that there are three main challenges to exercise: 1. Keeping it interesting (boredom is grounds for falling off any routine); 2. Attaining the same level of health benefits from the same old workout. Remember, the more efficient your body becomes at one type of exercise, the easier it is for your system to perform it, therefore you end up not working your body at a new level each time you exercise; and 3. A challenge we all seem to face at one point or another is the challenge of time.
Let’s face it; we don’t all have two hours every day to spend in the gym. I myself am a time management guru and have worked hard to find ways to fit each day into that little 24-hour window. Because of these challenges, I have found a wonderful exercise method that the Swedes call “fartlek,” which to us means “speed play” or a form of unstructured interval training.
Speed Play works by alternating intervals of highin- tensity exercise with periods of “active recovery.” For example, if you plan to walk for 1 hour, then every five minutes, jog for 30 seconds. If you are running, using an elliptical trainer, biking etc., sprint for 20-30 seconds and then use a slower pace for the remainder of the one minute interval. Also, be sure to keep it interesting, like adding a few hills to a treadmill interval. These bursts of high-intensity exercise lead the body to physiological adaptations that help burn more fat and calories.
The most fat and calories are burned during the recovery periods, or “active recovery” phases, where the body replenishes its lost glycogen stores. The body is also able to then more quickly meet higher levels of challenge, thus increasing your aerobic fitness, or maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max). The best part is, by varying and increasing the challenges of your intervals, you are able to intensify your workout while decreasing the amount of time you are exercising!
If several intervals of high intensity seem like a bit much to you at this point, don’t despair. You can get many of the benefits of interval training with much shorter intervals. A study done at McMaster University found that between four and seven “all-out” bouts of 30 seconds each, alternating with a four-minute, full-rest recovery period (walking) between intervals, still doubled the endurance capacity of the subjects in a mere two weeks of training.
In order to start a new interval training program, it is a good idea to start by computing your maximum heart rate. Start by subtracting your age from 220. Then you multiply by a percentage to get your range or goal. For example, a 40-year-old who wants to exercise between 60 percent and 80 percent of her max would subtract 40 (her age) from 220 (which is 180). Then 60 percent of 180 is 108 (which is beats-per-minute), and 80 percent of 180 is 144. Her range then is 108 to 144 beats-per- minute (in this case, 80 percent is her high-intensity goal).
You can, of course, work up to that, and you can also start with shorter intervals of low to moderate intensity and increase to longer ones as you improve. Once again, this is a great way to add some fun to your workout, decrease your time exercising and increase your fitness level…you can’t lose! If you are unsure of how to get started, be sure to consult a fitness trainer or email me your questions, and always remember to listen to your body.
Well, I would just like to say that I will be taking a four-week break from writing. I am due to have my second baby any day now, and my time management skills are telling me that I may not be able to fit everything in at first. If you are interested in hearing about certain topics of health, fitness, wellness or nutrition, please either call the Star Journal or send an email on your topics of interest. I am truly committed to increasing the awareness of health in our community, so I want to talk about things that are of interest to you! Thank you for listening, and we will chat more next month.