Why? Well, here are some reasons (I especially love #3. In a magazine I read recently, an added benefit also included raised metabolism for up to 3 hours after an interval workout versus a slow and steady workout for the same duration only raising the metabolism for 30 minutes afterward), found here:
- Interval training increases endurance. When you alternate periods of speed with periods of rest, you engage both of your body’s energy-producing systems: the aerobic and the anaerobic. The aerobic system uses oxygen to create sustained energy fueled by carbohydrates, allowing you to run multiple miles. The anaerobic system draws energy from glycogen stored in the muscles, which provides short bursts of activity. This process doesn’t require oxygen and results in the production of lactic acid, which is what makes you feel achy after working out. According to Dr. George Brooks of the University of California at Berkeley, running intervals develops both systems, forcing the body to create lactic acid during sprints and then allowing the body to break it down as use it as fuel as you recover, preventing muscle fatigue and allowing you to work out longer.
- You can improve your speed running intervals. When you run intervals, you teach your body that it can run faster by making it run faster. You can’t sustain your fastest pace for more than a few seconds at best. By running fast for a short distance, allowing your body to recover, and then running fast again, your body starts to become conditioned. When you learn to run at high-speeds over short distances, you’re eventually able to sustain a faster pace over long distances.
- You’ll burn more fat running intervals than you will running at a steady pace. Research presented by the University of New South Wales in Australia proved that incorporating speed intervals into a workout burns three times as much fat as exercising at a steady pace for twice as long. If you’ve reached a plateau in your weight loss effort, intervals could be the key helping you break through to achieve your goals.
- Interval training enhances neuromuscular coordination. This connection between your muscles and your mind is imperative for balance and injury prevention. As previously mentioned, running intervals increases the body’s efficiency, allowing it to process and create fuel more effectively and to achieve faster speed. This efficiency optimizes muscle coordination, and gives you better control over your muscles, both conscious and subconsciously. This control allows your body to automatically adapt and maintain balance while avoiding injuries without even having to think about it.
- Running intervals helps stave off boredom. No matter how much you love to run, there are always those days when lacing up your sneakers feels like a chore. Running past the same old landmarks or climbing onto the treadmills gets boring day after day, and interval training helps to mix things up. Use those familiar landmarks as sprint marks, or use the treadmill clock to keep time as you recover. Pushing your body to its limit will require all of your focus and determination – and boredom will be the last thing on your mind.
University of California at Berkeley
University of New South Wales
School of Science and Physical Education, Esfahan University
So, the next time you find yourself on the elliptical or treadmill, instead of a slow and steady 10 minute mile, bump it up to a 7.0 or higher for 30-40 seconds and then bring it backt down to 6.0 and jog for 3 minutes. Repeat with the goal of about 7 or more speed intervals every 30 minute exercise.