Interval Training: Getting the Most out of Cardio

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One of the best ways to boost your cardiovascular fitness level is through the use of a method of training German athletes that was developed in the 1940s.

Interval training, in its pure form, was the brainchild of German doctors Woldemar Gerschler and Herbert Reindell, who sought a way to improve the training regimen of elite distance runners.

Gerschler and Reindell were cardiologists by trade. They were mainly concerned with the effects of interval training on the heart.

The doctors found that the heart’s stroke volume—the amount of blood pumped with each beat—could be increased quickly and significantly by following a specific training protocol.

The original protocol involved running relatively short distances (100-200m) at a speed fast enough to bring the heart rate up to 180 beats per minute. This was followed by a short rest period designed to bring the heart rate down to 120 beats per minute.

This cycle of 180/rest/120 was repeated until the athlete took longer than a couple of minutes for his heart rate to return to 120 beats per minute. Since the main effect on the heart was thought to take place during the brief rest interval, this form of training became known as “interval training.”

The method was copied by distance runners and other endurance athletes all over the world after Rudolf Harbig, a Gerschler and Reindell disciple, broke the world record in the 800-meter run by a full two seconds.

Interval Training for Ordinary People

Fortunately, you don’t have to be an elite athlete or even a runner to benefit from interval training. You can perform interval training workouts using any form of cardio exercise, whether it’s running, swimming, rowing, cycling or elliptical.

It’s important to remember that this is a very challenging form of training. You should be in reasonably good shape before you attempt it and you should warm up thoroughly with lower intensity exercise before you begin.

To do an interval workout, you simply run, swim, cycle or perform whatever cardio activity you choose at a high rate of intensity for a period of time ranging anywhere from ten seconds to one minute and then rest for an approximately equal period of time.

You can do as many repetitions as your fitness allows, from five to ten or even twenty. Finish the workout with a low intensity cool down by doing your chosen activity.

Rules for Interval Training

To get the most out of your interval training workout, keep the following rules in mind.

  1. Warm up and cool down thoroughly before you perform interval training.
  2. Limit your interval training sessions to twice or at most three times per week, and don’t do them on consecutive days.
  3. Exercise hard but not at maximal effort. If you start to feel dizzy, nauseous or light headed, stop and call it a day.
  4. Take a rest interval of approximately the same time as your exercise time during the workout.
  5. Perform as many repetitions as you feel comfortable with; 5-10 is a good place to start and you can build from there.

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Lex Cavemen

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