How Often Can I Do Interval Training?

by James Kerrison on September 30, 2010

Here’s a question I get asked all the time.
”How often can I do interval training ? Can I do it every day?”
The short answer is that you shouldn’t be doing interval training ever day. If you are able to do it day in and day out then there’s every chance that you aren’t actually working hard enough during the training session. If you are working hard enough then your body will need a break.
Even if you have a look at top level athletes. Even with their busy schedules they have plenty of rest days and make sure that recovery takes a priority after big sessions, wether it be training or competing. So if the pro’s aren’t going at it every day, why would you?
You need to understand what interval training really is and I think that a lot of people are missing the point! Most people are used to doing the traditional (and ineffective) slow cardio workouts and will have their heart rate elevated to certain and steady level for the whole workout.
It is because of this old school way of training that they miss out on pretty much all of the benefits that interval training has to offer. With a traditional steady workout, you don’t get either the high range heart rate levels or the recovery phases. To get the most bang for your buck with interval training, you need to work as hard as you can during the work phase and then use your recovery phase to, umm, recover! When done correctly you don’t need to do this for long. In fact you will get more benefit from a hard 20 minute interval session than you would from a 40 or even 60 minute steady session. Increase the quality of your sessions and not the quantity. Get rid of the marathon mindset for fat loss and fitness and say no to tradition cardio.
So to get the most out of your interval training around three times per week is going to be ideal. Sometimes you may be able to get some more in, but just make sure you are giving it your all and are using good recovery methods.
Now in terms of the length of your sessions you want to keep them short. If your goal is for fat loss then you’ll want to be doing between 20 and 45 minutes. But the only time you want to bet getting close to the top end is if you are doing a whole heaps of different exercises. 20 minutes of the same exercise (such as skipping, running sprints) will be more than enough. If you mix up the exercises, either into pairs or a circuit format you will able to switch up the emphasis on your muscles and won’t burn out.
Once again though it all come back to intensity. Regardless of the length of the session, when you are meant to be working, go as hard as humanly possible. (if you get to the end of your ‘interval’ session and don’t feel cooked, then you need to step up the intensity)
Most research into interval training show that three times per week (at the right intensity) is all you need to get fat loss and fitness results. By overdoing the interval training you are more likely to sustain an injury as well. If you get injured you won’t be doing any intense exercise!
Points To Remember
  • Always train with quality over quantity
  • Work hard and recover hard also
  • Intensity is the key
  • Stick to three interval training sessions per week
  • Mix up your exercises, body weight, kettlebells, sand bags etc

Forget the slow, boring cardio. Train hard but train safely!

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