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Interval Training is a staple of the fitness industry!

It’s also what we do when we ride our bikes outdoors.  We have incline, hills, head winds, and they all may require a little more exertion during that interval.

Intervals training is available on and programmed into every cardio vascular piece of equipment on the market today and used at every level by highly credentialed trainers, and is the basis for most training programs you purchase, used in many fitness classes to increase fitness and performance whether  your goals are to win races or simply get up that hill.  It is the primary discipline used in spin class to effect fitness levels and promote physical changes!

Interval training is a type of physical training (in our case cycling) and involves a series of low- to high-intensity exercise workouts interspersed with rest or relief periods.  The high-intensity periods are typically at or close to anaerobic exercise, the recovery periods involve activity of lower intensity.  Varying the intensity of effort exercises the heart muscle, providing a cardio vascular workout, improving aerobic capacity and permitting the person to exercise for longer and / or more intense levels.

For cyclist, our intervals tend to be more random but still challenging particularly when we climb, ride up short steep inclines, ride into the wind, or simply dig in for a hard pull.  We train ourselves to improve the body’s ability to handle these “intervals and to ride in these conditions.

During these intervals, we improve our VO2max and the amount of power that we can generate while riding at our Lactic Threshold (somewhere in Zone 4).  Equally important, is our ability to recover quickly from riding into these!

hqdefault A couple of things that will make this easier to understand concept.

Zone 1 (50 – 60% of MHR)
Very light … recovery zone … simple exercise for weight management & recovery
– The lowest level you can exercise in and still increase fitness levels.  For beginners or people who have not exercised for a long period of time.  This zone can be for just improving your overall health.  It can also be a good recovery zone for people who are over-training and need to take a break.  This mode is also good for people who want to lose weight as the main source of fuel used by the body is fat stores.

Zone 2 (60 – 70% of MHR)
Light … basic fat endurance and fat burning
– This is the zone where the heart begins to benefit.   Training in this zone will begin improve your hearts ability to pump blood and improve the muscle cells ability to utilize oxygen.  In this zone stored body fat is the primary source of energy utilized hence this zone is referred to as the weight management zone.  This is a good zone for long slow distance exercise as the body becomes more efficient at feeding the working muscles more efficiently especially with fat as the main fuel source.

Zone 3 (70 – 80% of MHR)
Moderate … Aerobic Zone …. improves aerobic fitness
–  This zone is the most effective for overall cardiovascular fitness and is often called the “aerobic zone” or “target heart rate zone”.   This is the optimal zone to workout in to increase your cardio-respiratory capacity or the bodies ability to transport oxygenated blood to the muscle cells and carbon dioxide away from the cells.   After a while you will be able to cover more distance during workouts in less time.  Your body will burn less glucose and more stored fat as fuel thereby working more efficiently.  This zone is also effective for increasing overall muscle strength.

Zone 4 (80 – 90% of MHR)(85-90%= Anaerobic Threshold)
Hard … 2-10 minute Increase maximum performance efforts
– this level is where you cross over from aerobic training to anaerobic training which is called the anaerobic threshold or AT.  This is the point where the body cannot effectively remove lactic Acid from the working muscles quickly enough.  Lactic Acid is a by product of glycogen consumption by the working muscles.  This zone is primarily for people who want to increase their performance levels.  You would characterize this zone as hard.  During this zone your muscles are tired, your breathing is heavy and your fatigued.  The benefit of training in this zone is you can increase your bodies ability to tolerate and deal with lactic acid for a longer period of time as the enzymes in your muscles responsible for anaerobic metabolism are increased.  For competitors it is good to know your anaerobic threshold as many fit athletes can compete at or about their anaerobic threshold.

Zone 5 (90 – 100% of MHR)(VO2 Max)
Very Hard … less than 5 minutes Performance & Speed -athletic training
– You will only be able to train in this zone for short periods of time.  You should not train at this level unless you are very fit.  In this zone lactic acid develops very quickly as you are operating with oxygen debt to the muscles    The value of training in this zone is you can increase your fast twitch muscle fibers which increase speed.  You will not be able to stay at this level very long and should be used in intervals or sprinting work at the track.

Two zones worth learning more about:

Aerobic Zone … This is zone 3, (70 – 80% of MHR), and this is when you are making ATP from Glycogen, Oxygen, and Fats and primarily uses the red muscle cells or your slow twitch muscle cells.  During these type of intervals 80% of the calories that you are burning are from fat, 20% are from carbohydrates.  In theory, you can ride for long period in this zone.

This is perfect for weight loss as it is easy on the body and you maximize fat burning.

Anaerobic Zone … This is Zone 4, (80% – 90% of MHR), and is using more of your white muscle cells or your fast twitch muscle cells.  During these type of intervals, 50% of the calories that you are burning are from fat and 50% are from carbohydrates.  Riding in this zone requires a greater fitness and you can only do it for limited amounts of time.

So you may ask … why are so many training institutions and experts encouraging interval training for fat loss?

Aerobic zone: walk fast for hour:

one might burn 400 calories
80% fat = 320 calories fat burned … 20%carbs = 80 carbs

Anaerobic zone: Laced with 4 – 10 minute hard intervals into Zone 4 might burn 600 calories
50% fat = 300 calories burned, 50% carbs = 300 calories

It’s pretty much the same … Either way: You burn about 300 calories and achieve a higher level of fitness!

So it’ an individual chose as to how they achieve their weightloss goals based on their current wellness and fitness level.

Understand that …

Interval training is prominent in training routines for many sports. It is a technique particularly employed by cyclist, but athletes in many disciplines use this type of training.

Interval training is a practice used in every workout discipline to improve performance.  As you vary intensities, your heart rate varies.  Tracking this variation is done in Heart Rate Zones!

They are based on a percentage of your Maximum heart rate and adjusted depending on your Resting Heart Rate that takes into account your fitness level and genetic predisposition.