It’s time to kick up the cardio a notch and do some intervals this October! (Intervaltober? HIITober? OK, never mind.) There are lots of ways to do intervals, and they don’t all have to feel like you’re dying, so let’s explore the possibilities.
A nice thing about intervals, by the way, is that you can do them outside in the crisp, warm air (if you’re running or cycling), or hop onto a cardio machine or even do them in your living room if the world outside your door is too hot. So to get you started, here’s a simple beginner guide:
HIIT is intense but it’s not your only option
The classic formula for high intensity interval training (HIIT) is the Tabata: 20 seconds of all-out exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is so exhausting you can only really do it for a few minutes at a time.
HIIT has lots of benefits on paper, since it burns a lot of calories in a short time, and challenges your cardiorespiratory system. These are great things! However, two problems:
Most people don’t do them hard enough
If you do them really hard, you’ll be exhausted for the rest of the day and lie like a slug on the couch
If you love HIIT, go for it! If not, there are other types of intervals you might enjoy more.
3-5 minute intervals are great for improving your endurance
If you can keep up a tough pace for three to five minutes, that’s the sweet spot for improving your VO2max, which measures cardio fitness.
But as we’ve written before, it’s hard to figure out how to push yourself hard enough to get the benefits of that length of interval, without pushing too hard. A happy medium is to go hard for one minute, then easy for one minute.
30-20-10 is my personal favourite
This is a lesser known interval, but it’s what I love for getting back into running after a break. I use an actual wristwatch for this (just start the stopwatch when you begin) but you could also program an interval timer.
To do a 30-20-10, you walk (or jog slowly) for 30 seconds. When the seconds field of your stopwatch hits :30, pick up the pace. And when it hits :50, launch into an all-out sprint.
Repeat for five minutes or so (the minute field on your stopwatch tells you how many cycles you’ve done), then walk for a minute and start all over again. I find the sprints to be challenging but the walk/jog portion to let me catch my breath just enough to not be miserable.
Do you have a favourite interval formula? And what’s your favourite way to do these — running, rowing, doing jumping jacks?