If you’re not doing interval training, you’ve heard of interval training. In terms of getting the most return in the least amount of time, interval training is a beautiful thing.
The balance to high intensity interval training, and much of the reason it works so well or leads to injury, is the rest and recovery between. By between, I mean between repeats of interval during a session as well as the amount of rest before you perform other high intensity exercise.
Too much of a good thing is cause for injury. We’re seeing hints of that as trends away from 4-6 day a week bootcamps and toward a more balance activity schedule were reported with the 2016 world fitness trends.
We tend to focus on the work intervals. That, of course, is how we burn calories, right? Though calories burned during exercise is NOT the total picture of how fitness is born or gained (just as the scale is not the total picture of how fat is gained or lost), we still can’t help ourselves. Fitness programs, gyms, and online information sources like MyFitnessPal’s subject lines play us like a piano when it comes to high calorie-burning workouts or recipes with fewer than 400 calories. (two recent subject lines in my inbox).
It’s the rest intervals that make or break your progress.
A brand new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that passive recovery, that is, basically standing still, allowed study participants to work harder on subsequent work intervals (in the study they were sprints). Comparing passive recovery to active (where subjects ran or jogged between) there was much less deterioration of performance and most importantly, stress accumulation.
If you’re flipping 50, approaching 50 or you’ve already turned the corner, working hard without injury, and without additional stress are both crucial to your ability to stay active and stop exercise from creating additional cortisol. Stress is stress and even exercise is stress on the body.
If you perform some of the most popular workouts featuring 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of recovery and find you begin to lose form during the latter repeats, you’re probably not achieving your overall goal of burning more energy and at the same time you’re putting yourself at risk for injury.
Rest between high intensity intervals
Speed intervals: Find a stretch of flat area – it could be a city block long – and “sprint” then stand or walk in place to recover for at least the time it took you to sprint up to double that time.
Hill or incline intervals: Find a hill that allows you to “sprint” up (walk fast, run or bike) somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute. Then return slowly down the hill – not a jog or anything close to a fast pace. Your breathing should be completely nose-breathing before you repeat the next interval. (You can perform the same thing on a stationary bike, elliptical, or treadmill)
Swim Intervals: Sprint as quickly as possible to one end of the pool, ideally in a 25 or 50-meter pool. Rest at the wall before you go again.
If you perform 5-10 intervals with full rest between you should notice only a slight decline in your performance in latter repeats. If you’re new to intervals, perform five, if you’re experienced shoot for 8-10. These “all-out” intervals mean you should work every single one. If things get cloudy and your performance during hard and recovery during the “easy” interval begin to look too similar, you’re done. Know when to stop.
Always include a warm up and cool down before intervals. Speed always brings a greater risk than adding resistance. So choose a higher gear on your bike or find a hill as opposed to using speed all the time.
Rest between high intensity sessions
That’s across disciplines. If you do interval training on Monday and heavy weight training on Tuesday, you’re not resting between your high intensity exercise sessions. Plan an interval day, and a moderate or easy exercise day the following day.
Sample Interval Workout
- Warm up 5 -10 minutes: Progressively increase speed or resistance each minute
- Work Intervals: 30 seconds
- Recovery Intervals: 30 – 60 seconds (passive recovery)
- Repeat: Beginner 5x, Advanced 8-10x
- Cool down 5-10 minutes and Stretch
Do one high intensity interval training day a week to begin. Add a second as long as you have several days recovery between.
Less of the right kind of exercise wins. You’ll get better results. You’ll feel better.
You’ll stay active longer with fewer injuries.