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Stamina Secrets

Exercise Pearls for Real Health Benefits: Interval Training

By: Karl Zarse, MD

One of the frustrations that I hear from patients regarding getting adequate exercise is this statement: “I do a lot of walking. I get lots of exercises.”

Your goal for improving your health should be to IMPROVE your health, not MAINTAIN your health. The only way to get your body to improve is to push it out of its comfort zone. Walking doesn’t do that but push your body to its ANAEROBIC THRESHOLD.

Put simply, when you start feeling burning in your muscles and you’re gasping for air, that’s when you’re hitting the anaerobic threshold. Are you feeling this when you work out? If not, you may not be pushing hard enough.

Here is my foolproof way to make sure you are making real gains.

  1. Get a heart rate monitor. It’s a $50 investment or less, and it gives you real-time feedback as to how hard you are working.
  2. Calculate your max heart rate. 220 – your age.  If you are 50 years old, your max heart rate is 170.
  3. Now download an interval timer. They are free and make it a breeze to reach your goal.
  4. Start with a goal of doing 20 intervals. Do 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy.
  5. When the timer starts for the hard 30 seconds, push yourself as hard as you can to get to 90% of your maximum heart rate. If your max is 170, 153 is your goal.
  6. In the next 30 seconds, ease the intensity to a smooth pace and prepare to restart.

You should be breathing heavy and really sweating by the end. Pushing your body out of this comfort zone makes your body adapt. The result will be a stronger heart, lungs, and improved overall health. 

I do this almost daily. It’s only 20 minutes of your life, but it’s critical. If there is one thing you should adopt as a life long habit, it’s interval training.

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