Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? But those were the results of a study which measured the effect of interval training versus training at a steady pace. Read about it in this NPR article, Running Hard, But Just for a Few Seconds.
For many years the fitness community has promoted the idea of “zone training” for fat loss. The idea was to get your heart rate up into the aerobic “fat burning” zone and to stay there as long as possible. Meanwhile runners and most other athletes knew that interval training, mixing bursts of intense effort with lower intensity recovery periods, provided the most benefit in terms of performance gain.
Spinning was the first major trend that took off using the principles of interval training. Since then there have been many additions to the class schedule that adopt this idea of alternating high and low intensity periods. HealthQuest offers Spinning, Kickboxing, Power Circuit, Blast,and Cycle Core, all of which incorporate interval training into the class.
I haven’t seen the move to interval training adopted as readily in the cardio area of the Club. While there are a few serious runners doing them, it’s more for race training than fat-burning. Most people seem to be quite content to punch in a speed and stay there from start to finish. I think that it’s because many of us just like to “zone out” and read or watch TV when we’re on the equipment. That’s hard to do if you’re constantly monitoring times and adjusting speed and resistance.
While doing intervals takes considerably more focus, the benefits seem to be more than worth it. And the best part is that unlike the serious runners doing long, tough, intense periods of work, you’ll be better off keeping your intervals short, like the ones mentioned in the NPR article. Here’s another article that goes into more detail on that subject: Intervals & Fat Loss. It suggests that intervals of intense exercise should be kept under 15 seconds, with rest periods that are 1.5 times longer than the work period (you may initially need longer rest periods, depending on your fitness level).
Based on this research it’s hard to discount the payoff interval training offers. If getting leaner is your goal, it might be time to get a little more involved with the keypad on the cardio equipment.