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How Interval Training Works

Benefits of Interval Training

Interval training has been proven as an effective way to improve endurance and lose weight. We've already covered a few of the reasons why: Its short duration and its ability to allow the muscle to remove lactic acid before the build-up, but there are more benefits to these workouts -- as well as a few disclaimers.

As we've already mentioned, you'll burn the same amount of calories -- if not more -- using interval training techniques than you would simply by doing continuous training at one pace. You'll also decrease your chance for injury because you won't be wearing out the same muscles over and over again in repetition. As long as you follow the 24-hour cycle, you shouldn't have a greater chance of trouble with cardio injuries like runner's knee, shin splints or cramps [source: Mayo Clinic]. If you're already working out, it may be easy to modify your workout set to include interval training every other day. Along with many other cardiovascular exercises, it can be done nearly anywhere either with or without equipment, depending on your preference.

However, as with any exercise technique, interval training isn't perfect. It's usually recommended that you have at least a little bit of exercise experience before starting this technique so you're aware of your body's limits. It's also easy to overdo it at first, which might make first-timers want to quit before giving it a real chance. If this is the case, you'll want to slow down and allow yourself a bit more time to recover from the intense bursts. Although you're supposed to "feel the burn" for the rest of the day, it shouldn't dissuade you from ever doing it again. You'll also want to be aware of your surroundings if you're running at maximum speed, so be sure to do it in a location you know well.

As with most cardiovascular exercises, interval training isn't known for its muscle-building proficiency. It's an excellent way to lose weight, burn calories, stay in shape and increase stamina, but it won't help you bulk up. Although it's most often associated with cardiovascular workouts, the technique can also be applied to weight-lifting to build muscle.

The main problem with interval training is that even though it can be effective for those with heart disease, high blood pressure and COPD, it's difficult to measure how long sessions should last, and it's also easy to overdo. If you have a history of any of these conditions, be sure to talk to a doctor first. Consider setting yourself up with a personal trainer who can closely monitor your heart rate to make sure you don't overexert yourself [source: Jaret].

Continue on to the next page to find out more about exercise and other related topics.