Interval Training

October 27, 2007 at 12:08 am 7 comments

Well, I’ve said I’d write about my interval training programme. Intervals are a method of cardio training where you work at a hard(er) rate for short intervals, interspersed with equal or longer ‘rest’ intervals at a lower level of intensity. These high-intensity workouts burn loads of calories, but they also raise your metabolism after you finish working out, a phenomenon called ‘afterburn’. Interval training also boosts your aerobic fitness much quicker than exercising at a steady state does. The key, though, is to work hard enough in your ‘hard’ intervals, and easy enough in your ‘recovery’ intervals.

So how hard should you work? There are a couple of ways of measuring exertion. The more scientific and less subjective way is to use a heart rate monitor and work at a percentage of your maximum. If you are going to do this, it is vital that you correctly calculate your maximum heart rate. If you’re sedentary, the old formula of (220 minus your age) would give you a rough estimation. If you’re quite fit though, a better formula is (205 minus half your age). However, both of these can give wildly inaccurate results and if at all possible, you should arrange a proper test. Once you have your maximum it is worth taking into account your resting heart rate so that you don’t under- or over-estimate your actual work thresholds. So if you wanted to work at 70%, for example, rather than use Max HR x 70%, you would use:

(Max HR – Resting HR) x 70% + Resting HR.

An excellent book on heart rate training that teaches you how to do all of this is “Heart Monitor Training for the Compleat Idiot”. See the review on my book page for more information.

The other, more simple way to guage effort is to use the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. The scale looks like this:

  • RPE 1–2: Very easy; you can converse with no effort
  • RPE 3: Easy; you can converse with almost no effort
  • RPE 4: Moderately easy; you can converse comfortably with little effort
  • RPE 5: Moderate; conversation requires some effort
  • RPE 6: Moderately hard; conversation requires quite a bit of effort
  • RPE 7: Difficult; conversation requires a lot of effort
  • RPE 8: Very difficult; conversation requires maximum effort
  • RPE 9–10: Peak effort; conversation not possible

In a completely non-scientific observation, I have found that the RPE scale equates quite well with my heart rate, so RPE 3 is at around 30% of my maximum heart rate and RPE 8 is at around 80% of my maximum heart rate. But I don’t know if this applies to other people with varying levels of fitness. If you’re using RPE and don’t have someone to talk to, try talking to yourself, reciting the alphabet, counting in Spanish, or singing along to your iPod until you get a feel for what the different rates of exertion feel like.

So what kind of intervals should you be doing. The length of time at the hard interval will depend on the intensity. So for example, you could do 30 seconds at RPE 9, but not 3 minutes! And you could keep that up for a while provided you have a decent recovery, between two and three times as long as the hard interval. If you’re going to have shorter recovery times, you may need to bring the hard intensity down a bit. The number of intervals will also depend on your general fitness levels. As you get fitter, you may want to add a couple of intervals, for example, or reduce your recovery time. Personally, I get bored easily so I like to mix it up. It also challenges your body in new ways which tends to produce greater gains. I do four different interval programmes, taken from The Metabolism Advantage (see book page for review and more information). These are:

Interval Workout A:

Warm up: 1 minute @ RPE 3; 2 minutes @ RPE 4; 2 minutes @ RPE 5

Intervals: [30 seconds @ RPE 9; 90 seconds @ RPE 3] x 6

Cool down: 3 minutes @ RPE 3

Total time: 20 minutes

Interval Workout B:

Warm up: 1 minute @ RPE 3; 2 minutes @ RPE 4; 2 minutes @ RPE 5

Intervals: [1 minute @ RPE 8; 1 minute @ RPE 3] x 6

Cool down: 3 minutes @ RPE 3

Total time: 20 minutes

Interval Workout C:

Warm up: 1 minute @ RPE 3; 2 minutes @ RPE 4; 2 minutes @ RPE 5

Intervals: [90 seconds @ RPE 7; 3 minutes @ RPE 3] x 4

Cool down: 5 minutes @ RPE 3

Total time: 25 minutes

Interval workout D:

Warm up: 1 minute @ RPE 3; 2 minutes @ RPE 4; 2 minutes @ RPE 5

Intervals: [30 seconds @ RPE 8; 30 seconds @ RPE 3] x 15

Cool down: 5 minutes @ RPE 3

Total time: 25 minutes

Anyhow, that’s about it for interval training unless you have any questions. Nutrition Tip of the Week tomorrow. ‘night all.

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Entry filed under: exercise, fat loss, heath and fitness, interval training, weight loss.

Workout B Nutrition Tip of the Week no. 4

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. 5000 Hits « BlubberBeGone  |  January 2, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    […] This was how the workout appeared, but obviously you can change it for your own needs following the RPE (rate of perceived exertion guidelines). Instead of miles per hour, I used the same numbers with kilometers per hour. But I like the idea of starting faster and easing off in 15 second intervals, rather than working up to the hardest speed. If you’re not familiar with the RPE scale for gauging the intensity of workouts, you can check it out here. […]

    Reply
  • 2. Itchy & Scratchy « BlubberBeGone  |  March 19, 2008 at 12:02 am

    […] out more about interval training and how to use the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale, click here. To find out more about Turbulence Training, click here, or visit the Turbulence Training […]

    Reply
  • 3. Answering Your Questions 2 « BlubberBeGone  |  March 19, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    […] 3. For the person who typed in “working up to interval training”: no need. It doesn’t matter how unfit you are, you will still benefit from interval training. Because the intervals are based on the ‘rate of perceived exertion’ (RPE) scale, you are always working at your own level. So for example, a brain-numbing RPE 9–10 for a very fit person might be a 12 mph run, whereas a couch potato might feel they were getting an intense workout by walking at 3 mph (this is where I started). The brilliant thing about using the RPE scale is that both of these exercisers are getting essentially the same workout. They’re both exercising at the limits of their capabilities and their hearts are pumping away for all they are worth. So don’t worry about being fit enough to do interval training. Just jump right in. For more info on interval training, check out this post. […]

    Reply
  • 4. FitBuff Brandon  |  April 17, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Hey BBG,

    Great article on HIIT. I’m a HIIT addict.

    In fact, I’ve recently discovered and been experimenting with a whole new form of HIIT.

    It’s giving me even better results so far, and I detailed the entire new technique on my blog here if you want to check it out and try it:

    http://www.fitbuff.com/new-hiit-training-technique-not-the-same-ol-sh-hiit/

    Reply
  • 5. blubberbegone  |  April 19, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Thanks Brandon. I do most of my cardio on the treadmill, simply because I prefer it. But if my dodgy knee is bothering me I raise the incline rather than the speed. Also keeps it interesting to mix it up a bit. Thanks for visiting my site. BBG

    Reply
  • 6. anthony  |  October 19, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    I found this amazing interval timer The GYMBUDDY, built inside a sweatband and works great for any interval training and especially my yoga stretches. It is super inexpensive too! I think the only place it can be found is at http://www.rest-timer.com

    Reply
  • 7. 10 kph « BlubberBeGone  |  May 31, 2009 at 12:17 am

    […] Today I did the first interval session, workout A, with a high-intensity interval of 30 seconds at RPE 9 and 90 seconds recovery at RPE 3, times 6. By the way, if you’d like to know more about interval training, what it is and how it works, check out this post. […]

    Reply

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  • 1. Crack 15 stone (210 lbs) for the fourth and final (I hope) time.
  • 2. Lose 10% of my body fat (14 stone 4).
  • 3. Fit into a size 18 (US 16).
  • 4. Get my body fat below 40%
  • 5. Lose another 10% of my body fat (12 stone 12/180 lbs).
  • 6. Get my BMI under 30 (12 stone 9/177 lbs) - no longer obese, just overweight now.
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  • 2. Increase continuous jogging time to 30 mins.
  • 3. Run a 5K for charity.
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