Why not mix up your exercise regime in 2013 with some interval training, says fitness expert, Becky Dalby

If there is any time in the year where you should try something new, January has to be one of the best months. After Christmas and New Year the motivation to strip off some excess weight and ‘get fit’ is generally high due to the overindulgence of mince pies and mulled wine!

What is Interval Training? Interval training is a phrase commonly used among avid exercisers and athletes, but it is actually a method of training that is simple and effective and can be used by anyone. Interval training involves alternating between short bursts of high intensity exercise with more sustained, lower intensity exercise or rest periods. For example if you were going for a run, you could incorporate one minute sprints for every four minutes of running (at your normal pace). Unless of course you are an athlete (in which case it would need to be tailored to your specific goals), there are no fixed timings as it is dependent on the type of exercise you are doing and your current fitness levels. There are quite a lot of plans available on the internet so if you type in the form of exercise you want to do with the phrase ‘interval training plans’, you should find a variety of ideas. Bear in mind your current fitness levels and choose a routine that is realistic. Like all types of exercise, there are risks associated to interval training so if you are over 40 years, overweight, a smoker or suffer from any heart conditions you should consult a doctor before trying interval training.

When can I use it?  Interval training can be applied both to cardiovascular exercise and strength training programmes. Like everything in life, it is all about balance, so keep your exercise regime varied and perhaps incorporate some interval training once a week to begin with. Once you get the hang of it you will be able to apply the method to pretty much any form of exercise and incorporate it more frequently.

What are the benefits?

IT BURNS CALORIES LIKE NOBODIES BUSINESS The short bursts of high intensity exercise pushes and improves certain aspects of your fitness (depending on what form of exercise you are doing), whilst burning a vast amount of calories. The more effort a movement takes, then the higher the calorie burn. So the harder you push yourself within the one minute high intensity phase, the more calories you will burn. Returning to low intensity exercise or rest periods gives the body a chance to recover from the high intensity exercise you have just performed and prepare for the next burst. Generally more calories are burnt this way than if you exercised continually at a lower intensity for the same amount of time.

IT MAKES FOR A MORE EFFICIENT WORKOUT Interval training can act as a great time saver. If you only have 20 minutes spare to workout in, use interval training and you will burn more calories and make the most out of the time available.

IT INCREASES MOTIVATION If you think your fitness levels or weight loss have plateaued, interval training is a fantastic way to ‘shock’ your body and help you achieve your fitness goals. Not only will your body respond to the change in your exercise pattern, but it also helps to alleviate boredom and create motivation as you have mini goals throughout the exercise session. i.e. ‘I have to keep sprinting for one minute, then I can power walk for four minutes’ = carrot on a stick philosophy! Go on, give it a try and use this versatile training tool. Remember, the more you mix up your exercise and challenge the body, the more you can achieve! www.rebeccadalby.co.uk