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Feb 22, 2011

Interval Training for Fat Loss

"Interval Training" is quite the buzz word in the fitness industry lately.  In case you have been living under a rock (and I'm not saying I have something against people living under a rock.  If you enjoy living under a rock, that's perfectly OK with me), you have heard that interval training is superior over "steady-state" cardio for fat loss.  Good news and bad news.... Good news: interval training takes less time than stead-state cardio, and you get better benefits.  Bad news: Most people don't quite understand the concept of interval training and are not getting the maximum benefit.  There is more good news.  I have decided to put up a random picture in a random spot in this post.  Check it out:

Hopefully, this post will help you understand the concept of interval training and how to approach it to help you with your goals.   I'm even going to throw in a couple of interval workouts to try.  

One quick note on "steady-state" cardio... It's not that I hate steady-state cardio.  I'm a runner myself (not a fast one, except when people are chasing me, like cops on Friday nights) and I enjoy it.  I find it a good way to stay active.  But when I'm trying to get lean, I prioritize intervals at the top before any steady-state cardio.  So if you are a runner, walker, etc., etc., certainly don't stop if you enjoy it.  But if you hate it, then intervals is really good news for you.

Hey dude, what are intervals?

Intervals are periods of high intensity work (hard), followed by a recovery period (easy)Some people don't do the intervals hard enough, and some people don't recover "easily" enough, not allowing them to do the intervals at the necessary intensity.

Alright, here's the deal. 
  • The #1 rule before doing intervals (especially for running) is that you MUST warm-up before doing intervals.  This is to prepare the body for the intervals, as well as prevent injury.  It's for your own good, so don't give me that look.
  • You must cool-down after intervals
Let's use a scale of 1 to 10 and pretend we're outside running.  1 is walking ridiculously slow, and 10 is running for your life. Got it?  Good.  But I understand that everybody is different, and that is OK.  So, to help "shed some light", let's say you're a beginner.  A 9/10 intensity for you might be walking briskly.  An advanced athlete will find a 9/10 intensity as sprinting with 90% effort.  Simply use the scale based on YOUR fitness level.

For the following example, let's use a 3/10 intensity for your recovery, and a 9/10 for your intervals.  That means your recovery period should be a comfortable pace (about a warm-up pace). 

20 seconds (9/10) interval
40 seconds (3/10) recovery

Do the above interval and recovery periods 6 - 8 times.  That means this interval workout will only last around 16-18 minutes including a warm-up and cool-down.  Pretty cool, huh?  What's not cool is if I messed up the math and my wife sees this and gets upset because she's a math teacher.

Let's say you want to change things up and running, biking, and using an elliptical is not your thing.  That's cool.  You can do intervals with body-weight movements, too.  Here is an example:

30 seconds of Mountain Climbers, followed by 30 seconds of rest 

Do the above 6-8 times.

Try some interval training after your next strength workout.  Put them in your fat loss tool kit.  

To your fitness success,


  1. Yay mikey!
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  2. Don't worry...the math is correct ;)

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  12. I have heard a lot of good things about Interval Training, and I believe that is a great way for most people to get started. Just remember to warm up first, as that is so important.