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New New Year's Resolution

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Has your New Year's resolution of more cardiovascular exercise already started getting boring and the length of your workouts starting to decrease? It is time for a new New Year's resolution by spicing up the intensity to burn more calories, to improve your cardiovascular health, to make your workouts more interesting, and to decrease the time required.

A cardio method called interval training involves alternating short bursts of intense and moderate exertion. It can be done with any kind of cardiovascular exercise, such as running, cycling, swimming, or elliptical training. An example of an interval training workout would be to cycle very hard for two minutes, then pedal at a moderate pace for two minutes, then speed up again for two minutes, and so on. The speed and length of time at the more intense pace would depend on your conditioning level. For someone just recently starting to work out the intense interval should be shorter and not too fast, and the moderate interval longer. As you feel more comfortable with the pace and time of the intense interval, gradually increase them both and shorten the recovery interval.

Interval training workouts can improve endurance and fitness better than just moderate-intensity workouts at a steady pace, and in less time, and your mind keeps more active and focused on what you are doing. These workouts do a better job of improving blood sugar control, lowering blood pressure, and raising HDL ("good") cholesterol. Interval training helps improve the efficiency and endurance of muscles by making them alternate between aerobic exertion (in which oxygen is used to burn carbohydrates and fat for energy) and anaerobic exertion (without oxygen). Exercisers will maintain a higher overall intensity because they know that recovery periods are coming up. The recovery periods also allow for the removal of some lactic acid that accumulates in the muscles and makes them tire.

If you want to try interval training, start with two or three sessions a week. The other days should be rest, a moderate, steady workout, or cross training. Ideally, the intense bouts should get your heart rate up to 75% to 85% of your maximum heart rate. During the recovery periods your heart rate should drop to about 60% of maximum heart rate. Interval training can put increased stress on your heart and muscles. If you would like to start interval training, consult with your doctor if you have been sedentary or if you have a medical condition. If you would like some guidance or have any questions, consult with a fitness specialist at the Y.

Changes in any activity will always keep it more interesting and challenging for your mind and body. Your New Year's resolution for more cardiovascular workout was a very healthy idea, now keep it going and make it a life pursuit by spicing it up with continually changing and challenging interval training.