Intervals for Cardio


How to do Interval Training Workouts

How to do Interval TrainingAn interval training workout consists of three sections performed in the following order, the warm up, the intervals, and the cool down.

The Warm Up

You should always begin with a warm up to mentally and physically prepare yourself before performing cardio intervals.  During the warm up your mental acuteness, heart rate, breathing, circulation, and body temperature are gradually raised readying you for the intervals.  Warm ups can be around 5 to 10 minutes of steady-state cardio but the key is to make sure that your warm up has prepared you for the upcoming intervals.  During the warm up, work your way up to exercising at a moderate to hard intensity (70% - 80% of Max HR) before starting your interval workout.

The Intervals

After the warm up you'll be ready to perform the intervals.  Interval training involves alternating bouts of work intervals with rest intervals.  The rest interval is a generic term that can mean exercising at a lower intensity than the work interval or to stop exercising completely.  The object of interval training is to push yourself during the work intervals and back off during the rest intervals.  Exercise intensity and physical exhaustion naturally rise with each work interval, so the last one will be much harder than the first if you are pushing yourself hard enough.

Here's an interval example that involves six sets of 30 second work intervals followed by 30 second rest intervals.  The work interval will be running and the rest interval will be walking.  So you will run for 30 seconds then walk for 30 seconds and repeat these intervals for each set.

Interval Chart:

 Intervals  Sets


 Run 30 seconds + Walk 30 seconds
 (Work interval)    (Rest interval)

 6  6 min.

The Cool Down

After the intervals are complete, it's time for a 5 minute cool down.  The object of the cool down is to gradually bring your heart rate, breathing, circulation, and body temperature back down to normal rather than just stopping the session abruptly which is very rough on the systems of the body.

To Recap an Interval Training Workout

 1.  Warm Up 5 to 10 minutes
 2.  Perform intervals at desired intensity
 3.  Cool Down for 5 minutes

Timing the Intervals

To time the intervals you can watch the timer on the console display of cardio equipment or you can use an interval timer like the GYMBOSS.  However, you'll definitely need an interval timer to time interval workouts that don't require cardio equipment, such as outdoor track intervals.

Monitoring Exercise Intensity

To monitor exercise intensity, most modern-day cardio equipment have pulse monitor hand-grips within easy reach to keep an eye on your Target Heart Rate Zone.  You can also wear a heart rate monitor, which comes in handy if you are doing any sort of interval training that doesn't require cardio equipment.  Wearing a heart rate monitor is also good for safety because you can set it to beep if your heart rate goes over your personal high limit setting.  If you don't own a heart rate monitor or cardio equipment with pulse grip handles you can use the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale to monitor your intensity.

Interval Intensity Levels

Please keep in mind that while most intervals are designed for high intensity training they can also be designed for moderate or low intensity training.  The intensity of an interval workout can vary according to personal fitness goals.  Some people prefer exercising at moderate or low intensity simply because they feel more comfortable training there or because of health issues.  The top guideline is safe training, beginners should train at lower intensities and gradually work up to higher intensities as fitness improves.

 Exercise Intensity correlated with the Target Heart Rate Zone:

 Target Zones  Percentage of Max HR  Exercise Intensity
 Healthy Heart Zone  50% - 60%  Very light to light
 Temperate Zone  60% - 70%  Light to moderate
 Aerobic Zone  70% - 80%  Moderately hard
 Anaerobic Zone  80% - 90%  Hard
 Red Line Zone  90% - 100%  Very hard