How often should I interval train?

Avoid overtraining by adding interval training to your routine.


By Tesa Johns


Overtraining is a common mistake of the overly enthusiastic beginner. I commend your willingness to jump right in, but doing too much too soon can actually lead to impaired health and athletic performance. To combat overtraining, interval training can be added into your weekly routine. Interval training involves a series of high to low intensities and brief rest periods. Varying the intensity allows for a cardiovascular workout that improves aerobic capacity. Interval training is intense, so I recommend starting off with only one or two sessions per week, with three days in between for recovery and growth. Once you’re more accustomed to this type of workout you can do more than one or two a week.

Interval training has many benefits such as better cardiac function, faster metabolism, and it produces faster gains in endurance levels than steady state cardio. It is also an effective way to recruit/build type 2 fast twitch muscles (your sprint muscles). Interval training can be done anywhere and usually doesn't require equipment. Bodyweight exercises can be used as a form of interval training. These workouts are efficient in terms of time commitment and burn fat more effectively than endurance cardio!

Is interval training cross training?

Interval training is not cross training. Cross training is a break from your normal workout routine where you can train using alternative muscle groups or activities that stray from the norm. However, cross training can involve interval training, which will increase fitness and performance and break up the boredom of your normal routine.

For example, cross-training intervals could involve switching machines like from the elliptical to the treadmill or stay on the treadmill, but do intervals of sprints.

What are the advantages of interval training?

1. Fitness and performance improve quickly with interval training, typically in a few works.

2. Recovery time improves with interval training. Recovery is essential for growth and development within your body. Interval training benefits endurance sports where you hit hills need to catch up, or simply need to keep pace.

3. Research confirms that interval training improves fitness similarly to traditional aerobic training but in much less time. One study compared aerobic interval training versus moderate continuous training. Exercise training reduced the symptoms of chronic heart failure. Exercise intensity was found to improve aerobic capacity and quality of life in patients.

Improving aerobic capacity or the ability of the heart and lungs to get oxygen to the working muscles is needed in all exercise. An improved aerobic capacity will allow you to workout longer and harder!

Another study looked at metabolic adaptations during exercise after different exercise strategies such as low-volume sprint interval training (SIT) and traditional endurance training. The results of the study demonstrate that low volume SIT is a time efficient strategy to induce changes in metabolism during exercise compared to changes induced by traditional endurance training.

And finally a third study revealed that further improvements in performance could be achieved through high-intensity interval training.

Interval sessions are tough, you have to have some serious motivation and “dig down deep” to push yourself. The payoff is well worth it though. Find a training partner who will help push you. Commit to the workout and you will see great results!

Tesa is new to blogging, but hopes to make a big impact with her vast knowledge of athletics and experience. Tesa recently earned her bachelor's degree at the Pennsylvania State University. While majoring in Athletic Training and minoring in psychology, she worked with various division one collegiate sports teams. Tesa is continuing her education by pursuing her Master's of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in sports pedagogy at The Louisiana State University. Tesa is a board certified Athletic Trainer and a Performance Enhancement Specialist. Outside of the training room, Tesa enjoys going on runs and working out for leisure.

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