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You run for hours on the treadmill and nothing happens. You leave gallons of hard-earned sweat on the gym floor, but the numbers on the scale don’t budge. Stationary bicycles, stair climbers, elliptical trainers — you’ve mounted them all for countless hours with little to show in return. There’s nothing more frustrating than a weight-loss plateau.
But you can ramp up the effects of your workouts: Although steady-state cardio has a place in your fitness regimen, alternating high-intensity cardio with slower-paced recovery segments — interval training — will boost your fat-loss results, lifting you out of your fitness slump. Truth is, interval training may be fat’s worst enemy yet; it’s about time you incorporated it into your weight-loss strategy.
Vary The Rhythm Of Your Workouts
Working at a continual cadence or intensity from the first minute of your session to the last — steady-state cardio — can be wonderful for endurance training and meditative purposes, and it can increase your aerobic capabilities. But for those who are up for the challenge and looking to shed excess pounds while increasing their anaerobic capacity, intervals are certainly a solid option.
Since your body adapts to movements and intensities over time, which can lead to plateaus, it’s important to keep your body guessing by adding intervals to your training routine. Picture a door: If you only open and close it within a few feet of its range, both age and time will eventually rust the unused portions of the hinges and make the door difficult to force fully ajar. Your body responds in the same way — repeatedly putting your muscles through the same (read: limited) range of motion or adhering religiously to a specific aerobic intensity will stall any strength gains or weight-loss goals you may have in mind. That is why variety is key — and Oxygen’s plans, shown here, have that in spades.
Keep Workouts Short
High-intensity interval training sessions can, thankfully, be brief. In fact, 15 to 20 minutes of HIIT can provide the fitness equivalent of 40 to 60 minutes of continual-speed cardio. Best of all, a substantial amount of research indicates that short periods of high-intensity exercise can be better for caloric expenditure than longer steady-state periods (unless you are supremely fit and you’re going all out at 90 percent of your maximum heart rate for periods longer than 80 to 90 minutes) giving you more fat-burning bang for your buck each minute during (and for quite some time after) your workout.
The interval workouts detailed here take 30 minutes or less to complete, making them perfect for days when you have less than an hour to do both weights and cardio. For even better results, change machines each day and aim for three or four cardio interval sessions per week.
Do a light cardio warm-up for five to 10 minutes beforehand to raise your core temperature and end your cardio session with at least five minutes of low-intensity activity. Follow that by stretching your largest muscle groups, including your legs, back and chest. Above all, listen to your body: Your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) is a bigger factor in your fat-burning success than following the incline, speed and resistance exactly. If at any time you feel dizzy, reduce your settings. If you don’t feel challenged, raise one or more of your exercise variables until your RPE matches what is reflected in this plan.
Rate Of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
How intense is your workout? You can use the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to monitor the intensity of your workout. The most common RPE scale today runs from one to 10, with one representing little or no activity (standing around in the gym) and 10 being maximum, all-out exertion (fully out of breath or unable to continue with one more rep beyond a certain point). Four to six reflects moderate exertion, where you breathe heavily but can carry on a brief conversation; seven and eight signify very vigorous exertion, accompanied by short, quick breaths and the ability to speak only a sentence or so at a time.
Adjust a stair climber to an interval or variety program and set it for 25 minutes. Ratchet the machine to 15 if it has 20 levels of speed; stay within the seven to eight range if it has 10 levels. If you’re confident about your coordination, you can let go of the machine’s rails every third minute and pump your arms for an added burn. Increase your pedal speed or resistance if you don’t feel challenged. For maximum calorie-burning results, when you reach the top of a hill (as reflected on the program screen) your RPE should be at eight or nine.