interval training

The Scoop on Interval Training

Posted on by Lauren Updyke. This entry was posted in Being Active. Bookmark the permalink.

High-intensity interval training (also known as HIIT) is one of the newest trends in the fitness industry. It’s catching on because it’s is a form of exercise that most people can incorporate into their cardio and strength routines, and most credible exercise and science organizations recommend it. The benefits are fantastic too!

What is Interval Training?

Interval training is when you exercise from intense activity to light activity continuously for a period of time. During intense exercise, your muscles produce waste products that can make your muscles sore. Too much can make exercise painful and exhausting. When you alternate between easy and hard exercises throughout a period of time, you reduce the amount of waste products in your muscles and this makes your workout more comfortable.

Why is it so effective?

  • You burn more calories. When you increase intensity, even if it is just bouts of intense work, you burn more calories.
  • You improve your aerobic capacity. As your cardiovascular fitness improves, you’ll be able to exercise longer or with more intensity.
  • You stay motivated. Adding short intervals can add variety to your exercise routine and keep you motivated. It also can make the time go by faster and keep you focused.

Try it:

If you are someone that is on the go or pressed for time, interval training is a great solution. Interval training, whether for strength or for cardio, should be performed a few times a week.

Workout One: Choose your favorite mode of cardio (walk, run, bike, swim, stair climb)

Warm up with 5 minutes of easy exercise
Perform 6 – 10 rounds of 1 minute hard and 1 minute easy
Cool down with 5 minutes easy

Note: HARD should be hard enough that you cannot carry on a conversation.

Workout Two: Choose your favorite mode of cardio (walk, run, bike, swim, stair climb)

Warm up with 5 minutes easy
Perform 3 – 5 rounds of:

  • 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy
  • 2 minutes hard, 1 minute easy
  • 3 minutes hard, 1 minutes easy

Cool down with 5 minutes easy

Workout Three: Strength

The Tabata workout lasts only four minutes, but is one of the longest four minutes you’ll ever encounter. The structure of the program is:

  • Workout hard for 20 seconds
  • Rest for 10 seconds
  • Complete 8-10 rounds

Examples of three exercises to include could be:

Push Ups, Squats, and Crunches


Dips off a bench/table, Lunges, and Squat Jumps

Take it up a notch!

If you want to take it to the next level, combine your strength with your cardio. This workout could include the following:

Warm up with 5 minutes easy
Perform 5-10 rounds of:

  • 30 seconds hard cardio, 20 seconds of push-ups, 30 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds hard cardio, 20 seconds of squats, 30 seconds rest

Cool down with 5 minutes easy


The Whole U has an entire page of resources dedicated to helping you improve your fitness or get you started on the right track. Check out our training page.

Share your favorite interval workout in the comments below! The first three commenters will receive a Whole U t-shirt as thanks.

6 Thoughts on “The Scoop on Interval Training”

On September 2, 2014 at 6:46 AM, Greg Crowther said:

Here’s a loop that gets you off-campus but has few traffic stops, thus accommodating “1 minute on/1 minute off” and most other timed interval patterns:
I also enjoy doing repeats around the Montlake Fill:

On September 2, 2014 at 7:43 AM, Travis said:

I used the Zombies, Run! couch to 5k trainer to train for my first 5k last summer. The app used a modified interval training program over 8 weeks. I went from minimal exercise to able to jog a little over 3 miles.

On September 2, 2014 at 9:10 AM, Delores Kannas said:

I’d like to recommend jump roping. I do this first to warm up. It is very demanding to sustain. I’m sure there’s a world record out there the UW could try to beat for the number people jumping rope for 10 minutes.

On September 2, 2014 at 1:52 PM, Tamara said:

I love interval training – especially when you can incorporate natural and built environments into a routine somewhere outdoors! Can anyone recommend routes on campus for this? Which building at UW provides the best view for a 60 second wall sit? Thanks!

On September 2, 2014 at 5:06 PM, Cerise Knakal said:

For someone looking to improve marathon times, here is a good (but long) interval workout!
8 miles total around a track – no break between laps or miles
Mile 1: Jog first 3 laps, sprint 1 lap
Mile 2: Jog first 2 laps, sprint 2 laps
Mile 3: Jog first lap, sprint 3 laps
Mile 4: Sprint all 4 laps
Mile 5: Sprint all 4 laps
Mile 6: Jog first lap, sprint 3 laps
Mile 7: Jog first 2 laps, sprint 2 laps
Mile 8: Jog first 3 laps, sprint last lap
Done for the day!
For someone looking to qualify for Boston, this is a sure way to help improve times!

On September 3, 2014 at 1:26 PM, Jonathan said:

I like to combine interval training with a circuit of several exercises to make a good whole-body workout.

For example, pick 5-10 of the following: squats, jumping jacks, pushups, lunges, side lunges, situps, burpies, mountain climbers, dips, pullups, dumbbell work (biceps, triceps, shoulders, etc.), kettle-ball work (swings, pulls, etc.), and so on.

Do each of your chosen moves for 1 minute, rest 15 seconds, then move to the next. After going through all 5-10, rest 1 minute, and then start over from the beginning. Do each circuit 3-5 times total. You can also start lighter with 45 seconds on / 15 seconds off (or go to this in later rounds if getting too tired).

This approach is nice because you can switch up the exercises, the order, or the amount of time/reps to keep things fresh but challenging.

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