The Power of Interval Training

Last January, I was faced with a bitter reality. After losing a fairly substantial amount of weight in 2007 (with Weight Watchers), I’d successfully committed to a healthy lifestyle change. I was still tracking my calories and working out six days/week. But somehow, ten pounds of that weight had crept back on. It was six months before my wedding, and I was the heaviest I’d been in the past four years. I was determined to make a change. (I posted more about this in this old post.)

The good news is, I ended up following through with those changes. And I’ve reaped the benefits this year. This February, I’m twenty pounds lighter than I was last February. Not only that, but my body fat percentage is no longer in the “overweight” zone… It’s not even in the “acceptable” zone… It’s in the “athletic” zone. Me?? Athletic?? Really??

One of the biggest changes I made was reinventing my workouts. With the help of a fantastic personal trainer, I developed a set of about 9 workouts that all have a common theme–intervals. Although I feel guilty sharing my actual workouts, since I paid my trainer for her advice and expertise, and don’t want to give away her hard work for free, I feel like I can give you the basis.

Each workout consists of supersets. Supersets can be done in a variety of ways, but most of mine consist of 2-3 exercises done in a mini-circuit. The exercises are done back-to-back, with as little rest in between as possible. They can be complementary muscle groups (i.e. chest/back, biceps/triceps), or two separate muscle groups (i.e. glutes/shoulders, quads/chest, hamstrings/triceps). Then, after each superset, I do a short burst of cardio (run a lap, three sets of stairs, a minute of step-ups or box jumps, etc), before the next set. I do each superset + cardio three times before moving on to the next mini-circuit. Working out this way allows me to keep my heart rate up more than traditional strength training.

The other big change I made workout-wise was moving the cardio portion to the end. Also, since my heart is pumping throughout all those supersets, I only do 10-20 minutes on the monotonous elliptical, Arc-trainer, or Stairmaster.

I truly attribute the success I had this year (health and fitness wise) to this style of working out. I didn’t really change much about the way I was eating. I was already tracking my calories and eating enough fresh produce. (Watching those late-night snacks always makes a difference in my weekly weigh-in, though.)

Anyway, I get a lot of questions about what I’ve done differently this year, and I’m happy to share. If you have any questions about creating effective workouts or incorporating interval training, I’m happy to put in my two cents (although I’m no trained expert!!).

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