A lot of people are promoting interval training. Are you just wasting your time with old fashion walking, biking, and swimming? You’d think so from listening to everyone. Is interval training the best way to quickly lose that 20lbs of fat to get ripped abs?
“In the fitness class of life, attendance is 80% of your grade.” Scooby Werkstatt
Well meaning, highly motivated people wanting to whip themselves into shape fast find this fact out the hard way every January. With their new years resolutions in hand they do too much, too fast and end up injured and then hang up their gym shorts till the next January when they try again. Crossfit, interval training, and other advanced workouts are great but you need to establish a good base of fitness beforehand or you will get injured. Its far, far better to just walk every day for a year than it is to sporadically do interval training. In the big fitness class called life, attendance is 80% of your grade!
Interval Training is OLD!
Many people think of interval training as some new-fangled invention – its not! LIFE is interval training! Think about your last bike ride or run. How many times did you stop at stop signs or wait at lights? Thats real-world interval training! Was the course flat or hilly? Again, natures own interval training!
What is interval training
First what I mean by interval training is when you go at 100% intensity at some activity for a certain period of time then rest a certain period of time and then repeat. People give certain names to certain durations, for example Tabata intervals are 20s @100% intensity followed by 10s rest repeated for 4 minutes. The exercise you are doing can be any whole body motion: running, jumping, squats, deadlifts, burpees, stairs, biking, swimming, etc. Interval training goes by lots of names: winds prints, sprint training, intervals, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), complexes, hybrid workouts, Tabata intervals, and Little intervals. Crossfit, complexes, and hybrid workouts are hybrid weight lifting workouts that are also considered interval training workouts.
Benefits of interval training
- burns more calories in less time
- improves acceleration
- improves speed
- increases endurance
Curious thing though, if interval training burns far more calories in the same amount of time why is it that the all the big health advocacy organizations like AHA recommend brisk walking rather than intervals as the best way to lose weight??? Its because there are other factors to consider when deciding what the best form of carido is!
Problems with interval training
- High potential for injury in the overweight and untrained.
- Unclear if 4 minutes of Tabata intervals helps with long term cardiovascular fitness like 20 minutes of daily brisk walking does
- For endurance, nothing beats … endurance
The biggest problem with interval training is the high potential for injury – especially with the overweight and undertrained! Injured people don’t work out!
I’m an endurance athlete, I do triathlons and double century bike races. I can tell you from first hand experience that you can’t prepare for an 8 hour 200 mile bike race by just doing 4 minute tabata intervals. Nothing increases cycling endurance like TITS (Time In The Saddle). Interval training is a small but very important part of performance training in serious athletes. Not surprisingly, interval training plays a much more important role in sports requiring bursts of speed than it does in endurance sports.
Why walking is so good
The reason that brisk walking is the #1 best way to for the average person to lose weight is that you can do it anywhere anytime. You don’t even need to change clothes to do it nor do you need to shower afterward. You can do it at coffee break at work or at lunch hour at school. The second reason is that its the safest form of cardio. Injured people do not exercise so although interval training does burn off more calories per minute it does you no good if you get injured on day 2 and spend the next 2 months sitting on the sofa! Losing weight requires daily exercise and this is a classic case of the tortoise and the hare. Although walking is about as lame a form of cardio as you can come up with, its easy and safe so its easy to do it every single day of the year! Whats better 365 days of walking 20min a day or 65 days of intense interval training followed by 300 days of inactivity due to injury? Its clear.
If you decide to do interval training for weight loss
1) Get a check up first
2) ramp up slowly
3) to avoid overuse injuries, don’t do same activity on consecutive days
4) choose low impact activities till your bodyfat is under 15%
Example program, alternate days of 20min brisk walking with days of 2:1 intervals on stationary bike for 15min.
Although interval training is a very important component of training for performance athletes, its not the best tool for fat loss in my opinion – why? Because the people who need to lose weight the most are the ones most likely to get injured doing interval training. Take someone out of shape and 30lbs overweight and have then sprint and you are asking for injury. IMO, for weight loss, “old fashioned” biking, swimming, jogging and walking are the best ways to lose weight.
I know people get tired of me saying this but its not obvious to everyone so I will repeat it. You can always out-eat your exercise even if you do 8hrs of interval training a day. Exercise can help you lose weight but its not sufficient. Losing weight requires just one thing, that you eat fewer calories than you are burning off. You can do that by exercising more, eating less, or both.
Losing weight is as easy as 1-2-3, exercise a little bit more, eat a little bit less, and drink lots of water.