The other day, a family friend came up to me in distress because he had hit a weight-loss plateau. “I just can’t seem to lose weight or body fat anymore,” she said. “I work out hard every day. What could I possibly be doing wrong? After I went over the basic checklist for maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, I asked her if she incorporates interval training into his workouts. “Inter-what?” she replied, not having a clue what they were, which is a shame because intervals may very well be the missing ingredient into many peoples efforts to lose weight or tone up.

As it turns out, this friend of mine isn’t alone in her lack of interval knowledge. Many people I’ve spoken with either have no idea what intervals are, don’t know how to execute them the right way, or have never even tried. Let’s just say, if any of these apply to you, you are missing out on one of the best workout secrets out there!

Don’t worry; it’s not too late to get started. I’m here to inform you what exactly intervals are, why they are so good for you, and how to incorporate them into your workout regimen now.

What are Intervals, anyway?

Simply put, intervals are moderate level workouts with high intensity bursts of energy added for short periods of time (hence the name intervals). Because the high intensity bursts don’t last very long, it makes it possible for your body to recover before you increase speed again.

These intervals, rotating between high and low intensity, makes interval training suitable for anybody, no matter what your workout level is. That’s because it’s up to you to control how much speed is added during the exercise and after all, you know your own limits best.

Interval training is different than your regular run of the mill cardio routine because the rest periods incorporated into the routine allow you to work much harder during the short, fast-paced bursts that follow. This also results in burning more calories than you normally would. Also, studies have shown that interval training leads to an extended calorie burn throughout the day, more so than a typical steady-paced cardio workout.

Benefits of Intervals

As I already mentioned above, most often people who practice interval training burn more calories during and after their exercise, working up a nice sweat! But burning calories isn’t the only benefit of interval training. It has also been known to conquer weight-loss plateaus, tone up the body all over, blast fat and increase your metabolism throughout the day! Sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it?

And the benefits don’t end there. By incorporating intervals into your weekly routine, you’ll be less likely to get bored of your workouts, and have much more fun while working out. Instead of counting down those long, dreadful 30 minutes of steady running on the treadmill that you normally do, you’ll be constantly engaged in your exercise routine, making it go by much faster!

Add Them To Your Routine Today

As I mentioned before, intervals are for anyone, and that means you can get started today. With just a few, short tips, you’ll be on your way to being an interval-expert in no time!

Choose Your Terrain

One of the best things about interval training is that you can do it almost anywhere! Whether it be your favorite cardio machine at the gym or running around your neighborhood, intervals can be modified for whatever environment you’re in.

Actually, most cardio machines at the gym, like the elliptical, have a set interval program that you can choose before you start your workout. It will automatically change the machine’s levels for you to challenge your body and blast that fat off quickly. If you’d like to change your own levels manually, just keep an eye on the time and change speeds accordingly.

If you’re running or biking outside, go at your normal, steady pace for a minute or two, adding short bursts of 30-second speed intervals.

Know Your Level

While all of this may seem intense, interval training doesn’t have to be an extreme, out-of-breath experience. You can alter your intervals based on your personal fitness level. For instance, if you’re used to walking lightly on the treadmill at a steady 3.5 for half an hour a day, try walking at a 3.5 for one minute, with 30 seconds at a 4.0, or even lightly jogging at a 4.5. Once you get comfortable doing that, you can increase the speeds gradually during your next workout.

However, maybe you’re already a fitness guru, who can run 10 miles like it’s a piece of cake. If that’s the case, try running at your normal, steady speed for 2 to 5 minutes at a time, with bursts of 30 second to 1-minute sprints.

Change it Up

Just like any other workout, you don’t want to do the same exact thing every time. If you bike one day, try swimming or running the next. This will keep your body guessing what’s next and blast away even more calories!

Also, you don’t need to practice interval training every day. Give your body a rest, and simply incorporate intervals into your routine two to three days a week at first.

Now that you’ve read all about intervals, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Why didn’t I start doing this before?” Well, forget about the past and start living in the present, adding them to your routine today!

Interval training really is a no brainer to get in shape and get that dial on the scale moving down again. After a few sessions, it’s sure to become your new best friend and greatest workout buddy yet!