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Healthy living

Interval Training 101

Do you want a time efficient way to train? Do you want to lose weight or just improve your stamina and endurance? Look no further because interval training is where it’s at!

What is Interval Training?

Interval training describes a system of exercise where periods of high intensity work are interspersed with periods of low intensity active recovery, for example sprinting for 30 seconds and then walking for 90 seconds. These intermittent rests allow you exercise at a much high level of intensity than you would otherwise be able to if you worked out continuously.

Commonly thought of as a tool only to be used by athletes to improve their running performance, interval training can be used by pretty much anyone. The work to rest periods will vary depending on the energy system that you wish to overload and your fitness levels but even the most unfit beginner can use a form of interval training, even if it is only alternating between walking and jogging.  

The Fat Burning Myth
There is a common myth that exists in many gyms up and down the country that to burn fat you must work out for 30 minutes at your target heart rate. While this is true, it is not the most effective or efficient way to exercise for fat loss. The thing is, while you will burn mostly fat working at low levels of intensity for extended periods of time, you won’t actually burn very much. Once you stop exercising, you will stop burning fat. Interval training however raises your metabolism for hours after your workout has finished which means that you will burn fat at an accelerated rate for 24 hours or more after your workout!

Interval Training Benefits.

Interval training offers a wide number of benefits to regular users including the following points:

  • Interval training is time efficient. You can work much harder for a shorter period of time because of the periods of rest and recovery.
  • It allows for faster ‘adaptation’ to stressors. For example lactic acid tolerance will improve, allowing for improved and prolonged performance.
  • Interval training significantly improves cardiovascular fitness.
  • It will increase speed and fatigue resistance for endurance athletes.
  • Interval training is appropriate for all levels if adapted correctly.
  • This form of training burns more calories – not necessarily while you work out but in the hours afterwards.

The science bit.

Interval training works both the aerobic and the anaerobic energy systems. During the periods of high intensity exercise you will be using your anaerobic system (without oxygen). This system will use the energy stored in your muscles (glycogen – from carbohydrates) to fuel your workout.  Lactic acid will build up in your muscles and you create up what is known as an ‘oxygen debt’.

During the recovery period your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) will now be working aerobically (with oxygen) to repay this debt (EPOC or Excessive Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) and clear the lactic acid from your system. As a consequence, your metabolic rate will be raised as your body works to return to its normal balance, called homeostasis. During this time you will continue to burn calories at an accelerated rate for up to 24 hours or more after your training is completed. Because your metabolic rate is elevated, specifically aerobic respiration, your body will burn extra fat while you rest and recover from your interval workout. It’s like getting two workouts for the price of one!

Who can do interval training?

Pretty much anyone can train this way in some shape or form. Remember it is simply working hard and then recovering. For example new starters may walk briskly and then slow it down. For those new to running try jogging alternated with walking. Highly conditioned individuals will sprint then run to recover. Interval training is not just for treadmills and can be performed using a wide variety of CV equipment as well as out of doors.  

How long should each session last?

This very much depends on the individual, how conditioned you are and your ultimate goal; but 20 -30 minutes excluding warm up and cool down is a good time for most exercisers. Work hard enough and you will not be able to train any longer.

As with any type of exercise please make sure that you warm up thoroughly first. Ensure your warm up is appropriate to the exercise you are about to perform and includes a pulse raiser, mobility and dynamic stretches. Once your period of training is over, cool down and stretch once again.

Try interval training as an alternative to your normal slower paced cardio – it’s one of the most effective and efficient ways to get in and stay in shape!

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WoW Thursdays Workout 13/09/2012

Broken 100 meter sprints

Sprinting is a great workout for your legs, heart and lungs. Sprinting is also a surprisingly good fat burner as it creates a lot of lactic acid which increase post-exercise oxygen consumption. Very few treadmills go fast enough for sprinting and it’s not necessarily convenient to head off to a track for a workout so this session provides all the benefits of sprinting but the convenience of requiring only a small amount of space.

On flat ground, measure out the course detailed below…

Start—–5—–10—–15—–20 meters

From the start, run out to the five meter point and back. Immediately run out to the ten meter point and back. Continue by running out to the 15 meter and 20 meter marks. This four-stage shuttle adds up to 100 meters. Rest a moment and repeat.

For a more demanding workout, try running a broken hundred every minute for 10 minutes to total 10 sprints. The faster you run, the longer you get to rest between efforts!

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WoW – Monday’s workout 21/11/2011

Today’s workout requires a little space and some marker cones but that’s it!

Sprinting is a great lower body exercise, cardiovascular conditioner and ultimately a fantastic fat burner as all that lactic acid ramps up your metabolism for hours after your workout. This workout uses a space-efficient way to get your sprint on…

Broken Hundreds

Mark out the following pattern on the floor using cones

—– 5 meters
———-10 meters
—————15 meters
——————–20 meters

Run out to the first marker and back, out to the second marker and back, out to the third marker and back and then out to the fourth marker and back. This totals 100 meters. Test for 60 to 90 seconds and repeat.

Alternatively, for a super tough workout, perform this sequence at the top of each minute for 10 minutes to total 10 reps.

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WOW – Mondays Workout 17/10/2011

Sprinting is a great workout for your legs and butt as well as a champion fat-burner. Try this workout to get your sprinting fix!

Name: Four by Four
Duration: 15 minutes
Equipment: Treadmill, timer
Method: Using a treadmill or an athletics track run 4 sets of 400 meters, going every 3 minutes i.e. start your stop watch as you begin your 1st 400 meters, on completion rest until the time reaches 3 minutes then go again. The faster you run, the longer you get to rest! If you prefer not to run, this workout can be done on as a rowing workout instead.

M & W running

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WOW – Mondays Workout 25/07/2011

This workout is a super cardio session and works well as a stand alone or as a finisher after some resistance training…

Make sure you are well warmed up before participating in any exercise.

Using a treadmill or an athletics track run 5 sets of 400 meters, going every 3 minutes i.e. start your stop watch as you begin your 1st 400 meters, on completion rest until the time reaches 3 minutes then go again. The faster you run, the longer you get to rest!

If you don’t fancy running, this workout can be done on as a rowing workout instead.

Make sure you cool down and stretch when you are finished.

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WOW – Mondays Workout 28/03/2011

For today’s workout, all you need as a stopwatch and some wide open space…

Warm up by jogging for 3 to 5 minutes and then performing some dynamic stretches. Round off your warm up by doing 2 to 3 50 – 75% effort sprints for 10 to 15 seconds.

From your start point – e.g. a tree, park bench or street lamp, sprint out for the prescribed time and then slowly walk back to the beginning. As soon as you reach your start point, start your next rep. If you feel like you need a longer rest, walk back more slowly!

Set One – 10 seconds sprint, walk back to recover
Set Two – 20 seconds sprint, walk back to recover
Set Three – 30 second sprint, walk back to recover
Set Four – 40 second sprint, walk back to recover
Set Five – 50 second sprint, walk back to recover
Set Six – 60 second sprint, walk back to recover

Finish your workout with some light jogging and static stretching.

Sprint 1

The author practicing what he preaches!

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Understanding Plyometric Training

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Fast learning – sprint tips from World Champion Athletes

 Jeremy Warriner and Tyson Gay

Fast learning – sprint tips from World Champions

Sprinting is at the same time simple, you get from A-B as fast as possible, and extremely complex, as there are a myriad of factors – physical and mental – that you need to consider to maximise your speed. Allyson Felix, Tyson Gay, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Christine Ohuroghu have all maximised their potential (or are well on the way do so, given for example Tyson Gay’s recent 19.58 200m). I recently attended an adidias sponsored training camp in LA and spoke to each of the above sprint stars.


Allyson Felix

Double world 200m champion 

JS: What do you focus on when warming up?

AF: Once I actually get onto the track, I’m really focussed on technique and what I need to do during each phase of my race. I have a little routine that triggers where my focus needs to be.

JS: And those little things would be?

Like coming out of the blocks, I know I need to be driving and being very powerful and aggressive. And when I hit the curve I know that I need to be leaning in and working on coming off (the curve) really strong.

JS: How do you combine the need to be relaxed with the fact that you also need to be aggressive to generate all that power?

AF: For me, I just try to focus on what I need to do and that kinda takes me out of the moment and away from the crowd and relaxes me. I try not to be too relaxed though as I need the adrenaline of the situation.

JS: Do you think that as a woman you have train differently to men?

AF: I always feel that it’s (sprinting) easy for them (men), it comes more natural, like coming out of the blocks where they are more powerful and aggressive. So we (women) have to do more drills and more sled (pulling) work, because it’s not such a natural thing.

JS: Is there any type of training that you don’t like doing?

AF: Yeah, anything’s that’s long. I hate 600s, but I get through them, I love to sprint.

JS: Do you do any aerobic work?

AF: Yeah, every Wednesday we go on a thirty-minute run, but that’s the one road run we do. Once the season starts we pretty much stop that. But every so often, we pick it back up ….. you can feel when it’s (aerobic fitness) lacking.

JS: What’s your strength as a sprinter?

AF: I think it’s top end speed and being able to hold that. The beginning of my race is weak and I pick things up later on.

JS: Are you working on your start?

AF: I would love to (improve it) I’ve been trying to for a very long time. I know what’s wrong and I can visualise it, but it’s a whole other thing trying to actually correct it.

Is it frustrating as you could run maybe a tenth faster?

(Alyson laughs) Oh, extremely frustrating.

Veronica Campbell-Brown

Double Olympic 200m champion

JS: What advice do you have for runners of all speeds?

VC-B: You have to be positive, believe in yourself. I always tell people that the mind is one of our most powerful instruments and it amazing what it can do. You can train hard and you can prepare, but if you go to a competition with doubt, insecurity and negativity that could mess everything up. So on top of all your hard work and training you have to be positive and believe that you can do anything.

JS: How do you specifically warm up.

VC-B: My warm up starts with a couple of laps then some stretches, static and dynamic and then drills. I do a lot, maybe 7-8 back and forth as part of my warm up and then I do a couple of strides and get into my workout

JS: Do you have a specific pre-race mental preparation routine?

VC-B: Many times I run the race over and over gain in my mind and try to remember what I need to do to win it.

I have no idea of what is going on when I’m in the blocks. I’m totally zoned out and I am just waiting for the sound of the gun. Most times after that I don’t really know anything else, unless there is a competitor in front of me or the finish line is approaching.

JS: What are your strengths as a sprinter?

VC-B: I think speed and power are my two major strengths. My technique is ok, but I think that there is a still a lot of room for improvement, in particular in the 100m.

JS: Do prefer the 200m to the 100m or vice-versa?

VC-B: I love them both; it’s hard for me to differentiate between the two. I think that I’m as good at them both. A lot of people may say that I am better at the 200m, because I have had more success, but I also believe that I can also run a great 100m as well.

Tyson Gay

Reigning world 100 and 200m champion – holds the world’s fastest 100m time albeit wind aided 

JS: What advice have you got to get faster?

TG: I do a lot of hill runs, like 200m four times, or three 300m’s, but only one 400m (Tyson explained that all the runs were fast and that long recoveries were used so they could be kept speedy)

JS: What do you concentrate on at the start?

TG: Sometimes I think about pushing off from the blocks or reacting to the gun. In some races I’ll be able to focus on my technique and getting it perfect, but often the races are a blur.

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Christine Ohuruogu

The ultra-FIT interview

Christine Ohuruogu

Christine Ohuruogu – although a house-hold name after her World and Olympic 400m gold medals over the last two year  (not to mention a suspension for missing three drugs tests prior to the first victory) is a bit of an empty canvass to many. Not much more is really known about the 24 year old from East London. Yet, she will be spearheading Team GB’s 2012 Olympic track and field challenge and has the small issue of defending her world title in Berlin this August.

I caught up with Christine in Los Angeles in March prior to her starting the outdoor season, she’d had a good indoor season over 200m and she was in good spirits, physically and emotionally. I had a slight advantage over some of the other assembled journalists as Christine’s coach Lloyd Cowan was one of my best friends…… in fact he’d asked Christine to divert my incisive journalism (!) when I interviewed her by asking me a random question about myself and Lloyd from the deep, distant past. The pressure had been made worse by the fact that I had been told by Lloyd to ‘watch out!’. As it turned out I needn’t of worried as Christine asked me the question (which shall remain a secret) and then laughed when she couldn’t remember what Lloyd had told her, the ‘right’ answer should be. Other funnies and a willingness to not take herself too seriously (apart from when it matters) reflected Christine’s bubbly and genuine personality.

We talk about the forthcoming season, “I have goals, but my most important one is – and I know this might sound dumb – is to get the World Championships and try to enjoy myself. It’s been so intense over the last three to four years,” explained the athlete, continuing, “I think I have achieved more than I ever thought that I would have by this time in my life.” I acknowledge this reply and reflect that very few of Britain’s illustrious previous track and field world-beaters have achieved so much so young (Christine also won the Commonwealth 400m title in 2006). I ask whether she finds it difficult to remain motivated and to keep winning. Christine replies equally candidly, “Yes, I don’t want to be doing the same thing in 5–10 years, just chasing medals. I don’t think I could do that.” I suggest, albeit it somewhat negatively that losing a major title might not be such a bad thing, so that perhaps her hunger could return, just in time for 2012, “Do you think so? I’m still really hungry. With me it’s all about getting to the championships prepared and then when I get there I’ll do what I am best at, racing.” The 400m runner obviously has a steely determination, despite her charm. She knows how to focus and has a great belief in the training that her coach puts her through, “What Lloyd does is keep things (in training) very simple, basically he tells me to go out and run and that’s all there is to it. I try to remember when I go out on the track, that I have done the work and that there is no reason why I should run badly.”

 You can get to 200m as fast as you can and think that you are winning, but you’ve still got half the race to go ……you can win or lose in a step

How do you approach the 400m? In the Olympic final you were well off the lead round the top bend, did you think you would win? “The race is not over until you cross the line. I study many races, watch videos and assess different split times, to know that nothing is won or lost until you cross that line. You can get to 200m as fast as you can and think that you are winning, but you’ve still got half of the race to go ……you can win or lose in a step. I ask how she deals with nerves? “I do get nervous, but when I get on the track I recognise that I am there to do a job and every thing happens for a reason. You’re there because you are supposed to be there and that gives you comfort and that everything is planed out.” The focus is seemingly always there and Christine is a real racer, where does this come from? “I believe that track and field is an extension of myself. I like challenges. It gives me that opportunity to push myself everyday.”

Christine has won three major senior titles but does not race that much on the summer track circuit. “People think I prefer championships to one-off races but it’s not that I prefer them, it’s just that I have not had a lot of one-off races at a high level. When I started the sport, I was thrown straight into a championships (the European juniors) and that’s where I learned to develop my racing …. I don’t know anything else. Athens (Olympics 2004) was again the same. It was my first major championships as a senior, that’s when I tasted that high-life and realised that that is all you need to train for.”

So why the 400m (the toughest of all the sprints)? “We had a club race when I was young and there was no one to do the 400 and I was told to run, just do it and jog round. And because I was nice and polite (laughing) I just went and did it and won. So from then on it was the ‘4’.”

Set backs

Christine has suffered from Achilles tendon problems in the past and then there was of course the one-year suspension for missing three drugs tests. She explained that the injury was a result of her netball career (Christine was an under-19 England netballer) and that an operation had sorted the problem out – although years of running injured had affected her running style. Laughing at herself she explained that she has this, “strange lopey running style, where I kinda take my time,” but more seriously and worryingly for her rivals she added, “I know I can get faster and we’re working on that.” And those three missed tests in 2006? The ‘story’ has been told many times in the press. It appears that it was a genuine mistake and some of the aspersions from certain sections of the media seem out of order. As an international athlete myself, I know that Christine’s performances are within the boundaries of ‘real’ human capabilities and frailties. She’s moved on but the year out was a very difficult time for her. Lloyd was central to her continued involvement in the sport. Christine explained that he kept her on track and stopped her from giving up. “Lloyd is a good guy, it’s very rare that you can find someone who is willing to put themselves out for their sport and their athletes as opposed to making themselves look great.”

Christine Ohuruogu deserves superlatives, bathed in the golden glow of three major titles and the potential of more to come, yet blessed with a down to earth personality, a home victory in 2012 would make her arguably Britain’s greatest ever female athlete and bring her the true recognition that she deserves.


What advice have you got for people running for fitness?

Find a good coach, someone you can trust to give you good information, and encourage you.

You have to enjoy running and not just see it as something you have to do.


Thanks to adidas

Whatever sport you are training for it is essential to get maximum benefit by wearing the right kit. adidas has an extensive range of technically advanced footwear and apparel to help you achieve your impossible. For more info on the right kit for training visit www.adidas.com

Interview by: John Shepherd

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