Improve Your Health With Cardio Interval Training

Patrick Dunham's picture
By Patrick Dunham on February 1, 2017

Cardio interval training is a great way to increase physical performance and improve health. The key to getting the most out of any interval training workout is utilizing a work to rest ratio and hitting your target heart rate zones.

Work-to-Rest Ratios
Work-to-rest ratios for interval workouts are usually a 1:1 ratio. So for example, that would be 2 minutes of biking or running at 85 percent of your max heart rate (MHR), followed by 2 minutes of jogging at 40 to 50 percent of your max heart rate. This lower intensity period is known as active recovery. Your body is continuing to work, keeping up the calorie burn, but it is a chance to rest and recover before starting the next high-intensity interval.

Target Heart Rate Zones
I recommend that you aim for 80 to 95 percent of your MHR during an interval training workout. Beginners should aim for the low end around 80 percent and if you are fit you should shoot for 90 to 95 percent. Follow this basic formula to determine your general target heart rate:
1. Subtract 220 from your age. For example, for a 50-year-old it would be 170.
2. Now, to determine your heart rate for the higher intensity period of your workout, multiply 170 by .85, which is 144 beats per minute.
3. To determine your heart rate for the active recovery period, multiply 170 x .75, which is 127 beats per minute.

Duration of Training
Each interval training workout should range from 20 to 60 minutes, including active rest periods. If I am training for a competition or a race, I like to perform this type of workout on cardio equipment, such as a treadmill. It can be a great key workout to help you increase your heart rate into a zone that will not only benefit your overall performance on race day, but also improve your overall health, all without the constant pounding on the pavement.

1. Bike (total of 10 minutes)
5 sets of: Bike at 85 percent of MHR for 60 seconds.
Active rest at 45 percent of MHR for 60 seconds.

2. Elliptical (total of 10 minutes)
5 sets of: 80 percent of MHR for 60 seconds.
50 percent of MHR for 60 seconds.

3. Treadmill - walk or jog at an incline (total of 10 minutes)
Bump treadmill up to desired incline and do 5 sets of: 60 seconds at 85 percent MHR.
60 seconds at 50 percent MHR.

Cool down at 40 to 50 percent of MHR on machine of your choice for 3 to 5 minutes.

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Before performing any exercise consult your physician for clearance. Stop exercising immediately if you feel lightheaded, dizzy or have chest pains.