In Exercise

Two Interval Training Tracks for Your Summer Exercise Solutions

I think most of us agree health is important. Who doesn’t want to look better while she’s getting fit? My mom’s nearly 89 and when she tries on a pair of pants she still turns around to look at the rear view. It’s not going to leave us so we may as well acknowledge that!

If we want results that help us both look and feel better our exercise choices matter. Random exercise gets random results. The recent surge in High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) both favors shorter workouts and more optimal fat utilization from the burning of calories that happens after (not during) the exercise.

Those are two seductive reason we could easily fall in love and think intervals are the way, the only way and the best use of time. In The After 50 Fitness Formula For Women, the private coaching workshop and the book, I explain why more isn’t better in detail. Here’s a synopsis.

1. One-to-three times a week is the most you want to do intervals. The American Way… is often if a little is good more is better…. I’m guilty, how about you? I explained the principles of recover in a blog last week. For over 50’s that’s the key. You can work hard, just as hard as when you were younger but you probably need more recovery between. A week may become a 10 day cycle of exercise. It might not make sense for you to do Monday- Wednesday Friday classes any more. You might actually find your fitness (energy, ability to sleep, fat loss) soars with two days of rest between exercise.

Start your interval training wisely. One time a week to begin. Usually we do the opposite. We get pulled into a session that is offered at set days and times and we register. Trying to fit our fitness level, status and needs into an existing blueprint. I encourage you to break the mold! You are getting your money’s worth- not if you go more days of the week – but if you get more fit. The result is what matters. Anyone can get tired! You want fit.

  • So, beginner? ONE day a week.
  • Already doing intervals? Two days with (try it) 72 hours between. If it’s a must for your schedule 48 hours is OK but not ideal.
  • Already doing intervals consistently for a long time? Three days a week but experiment with rest. It may be three days each 9 days works better. (Monday, Thursday, Sunday…and begin on Wednesday again)

2. Use an 80/20 rule. Whether you want to get faster or you want to get fitter the 80/20 rule here is about the amount of time you spend doing intervals. Literally, not including warm up activity. Only 20% of your time need and should be interval time. The other 80% will be your foundation of cardiovascular fitness. Life after all is about stamina and endurance. We have to sprint sometimes, but more sprinting doesn’t make you fitter faster. You still want a few long walks. You still want some moderate duration moderate intensity exercise. Sprinkle intervals in rather than focus only on them. Look at your week and at your exercise sessions this way and you’ll see them in a different light.

Let’s say you do (not a suggestion yet!) 30 x 30. That’s 30 seconds of “hard” and 30 seconds of recovery done 30 times. The total interval time = 15 minutes. Now look at your total exercise time. You have 30 minutes in order to include the intervals, and with a 10 minute warm up and cool down each you’d have a total of 10 + 30 + 10 = 50 minutes. The hard interval take 15 minutes and the remainder of the workout is 35 minutes. That’s about 33% of the total workout time this day.

If you include days of two long (40 minute) walks (80 minutes) and one other day of maybe just 10 minutes of hard interval time during a 20 minute workout you have 25 total minutes of intervals and 125 minutes of “other” time. That is 20% of intervals for your week. That’s smart exercise that builds in recovery and will increase fitness and energy instead of breaking you down over and over again.

3. Work time should be equal to or lower than recovery time when you’re beginning. For sound fitness you always want a progression. For the goddess in your head’s idea of what a bathing suit fitting should look like you want more results faster. That will leave you frustrated faster but not necessarily fit.

Take the 30 x 30 example above. That’s a 1:1 ratio of work: recovery. You might be OK with that. But if you’re just beginning it might be better both not to do 30 intervals but maybe 15 at first, and do 30 hard: 60 seconds recovery.

One point to keep in mind is that you do want to recover. That is, be breathing easier at the end of your recovery time. That improves over weeks of training: you will recover faster. You don’t want to have your intervals get “cloudy” – when your work isn’t with good form and you’re not able to do as much …. and your recovery isn’t really recovered. Clearly work hard and recover easy.

4. How to Interval? You can use speed or resistance. Examples of resistance include incline on the treadmill, bike or elliptical. Walking up a hill outdoors but at the same speed is also resistance. Research suggests injury risk is slightly greater with speed than with resistance. You can do intervals in the pool, on land, using equipment. Often someone things running or jumping have to be involved. Not so. Anything can work. Squats with body weight and a little extra weight can be your interval. I do love boxing because it allows upper body involvement, can but doesn’t have to involve any kicking or lower body work.

5. Length of intervals. Shorter intervals work a different system than do long intervals. Start with short ones. You want “doable” and a feeling of success. It doesn’t take much to see real progress and feel entirely different after exercise. Longer intervals, those that gradually increase to 45 seconds, a minute, and two minutes seem to have a greater impact on over all fitness level. They elevate what’s called your VO2 max. That means you can do more – during life as well as exercise – without getting fatigued. This increase in intervals may be of interest to you if you seek more stamina and endurance.

If you’re looking for weight management and a way to fit in exercise in a short amount of time, you might decide sticking with short intervals most of the time serves you better. Don’t attempt a two minute interval right out of the interval gate. Build up over weeks and even months to that. I increase client’s intervals over 12 weeks and might introduce a longer interval one day a week keeping shorter intervals to the other interval workout.

Last…

Here’s a simple option for you if you’re beginning and an interval variation for you if you’re already doing intervals. Not knowing you individually I’m giving a “blind” exercise prescription. Adjust or leave a comment if you have a question and I’ll try to customize for you.

BEGINNER: 

Warm up 10 minutes

:30 work to 1:00min recovery x 10

Cool down at least 5 minutes

MORE INTERVAL EXPERIENCE:

Warm up 10 minutes

:30 work to :30 recovery x 30

Cool down at least 5 minutes

Add or exchange this for one of your interval days.

Life has natural intervals. At every age you can and should include them. Special conditions? Emphysema patients do intervals – they do better with them than longer steady exercise, in fact.

~Debra

P.S. Share your questions! Use this interval set for week #1 of this summer interval series and I’ll include a new one for beginners or experienced exercisers Tuesdays weekly during June.

P.P.S. Are you a vegan? I’m doing a vegan challenge for myself in June. Two years ago I did what started as a month and turned into three. I felt wonderful and have so many of you telling me that you’re 100% plant-based that I want to “come over” for a while. I will return to fish and eggs again most likely but for now I’m ready to test my ability to get the protein and essential amino acids I need from plants-only. If you’re a pro- share your protein-rich (but soy void) recipes!


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