1. Burn More Calories
By alternating between fast and slow, you are making your body work hard, then recover rather than just exercising at a set pace. A result of changing the intensity is an increased metabolism which will allow you to burn more calories. Additionally, the increased metabolism will last longer than if you had just maintained a steady pace.
2. Decrease Workout Time
Spend less time exercising while still getting a great workout. You can do an interval cardio training workout in 20-30 minutes and get a better workout than if you spent 45-60 minutes on a cardio machine or doing a steady cardio activity such as jogging at a constant pace.
3. Beginner – Advanced Levels
Effective for beginners through advanced individuals. Any activity can be used for an interval cardio training program so you can choose the intensity of the cardio activity along with the duration to ensure you are challenged regardless of your personal level of fitness.
- Beginner Example: If you are a beginner, you can start with walking and alternate between a fast pace and your normal pace, or you could jog then walk. You want to start at a level that works for you and then progress. If you haven’t worked out lately or are completely out of shape, the walking example is fine to start.
- Advanced Example: If you work out regularly and are more physically fit, then sprinting with a fast pace walk may be what you do. Or if you need more intensisty, try doing windsprints up a hill. This is a great workout that you will feel the next day (I actually felt it for a couple of days afterwards).
4. No Special Equipment Needed
Use what you have whether it is cardio machines, your bicycle, a pool, etc. Interval cardio training can use any type of activity. It does not have to be running and walking.
You can use a stairclimber, ride a bicycle, swim, whatever you want to do. The method is the same for whatever you chose – alternate a fast higher intensity pace with a slower pace.
5. Wide Variety of Options
You can mix it up however you wish. If you like running, then you can stick with the sprint/walk combo but if you get bored with that or want a change of pace, there are many other options.
Basically any cardio machine can be used by just doing a higher/faster level then a lower/slower level. Experiment with different machines such as an elliptical trainer, Stairmaster or anything you want. Also by mixing it up, you are changing up your routine with exercises that hit different muscles too.
So you may decide to peddle a bike as fast as you can for 45 seconds, then peddle slower for a minute, or do the highest level on the stairclimber for 30 seconds, then a lower level for 45 seconds. I think you get the idea. The duration you use for your interval cardio training will depend on where you are individually. There is not one set timeframe that has to be used by everyone.
Before & After Interval Cardio Training
Before: Don’t forget to warm up first. A warm up doesn’t take long, only a few minutes is needed. You do not want to go out and start your interval cardio training session with cold muscles because that is how injuries can occur.
Your warm up could consist of walking faster than your normal pace, brisk walking or even jogging, depending on your individual level. The warm up should not leave you gasping for air. It is to get your body moving and ready to start a workout.
After: You should work in time to cool down after you finish. Like the warm up, the cool down doesn’t take long, again only a few minutes.
The idea is to get yourself back to your normal heart rate and let your muscles finish recovering from your workout. Your cool down activity could consist of the same as you did for your warm up.
Not everyone does this, but I also like to stretch after my interval cardio session because my muscles are now nice and warmed up. I find I get more out of doing this at the end and can get a better stretch than with just slightly warm muscles.