04/09/2013 08:11 EDT | Updated 06/09/2013 05:12 EDT

Four Fun and Effective Interval Training Workouts

A client suggested to me that my blogs are too serious -- not "fun" enough. I happen to think my blogs are full of fun information. That said, I am often told that my understanding of fun is a little bit screwy. So, I guess I am willing to admit that what I consider to be "fun" topics could be a little "off." Anyway, I know my client wasn't trying to be mean. In fact, I think she was trying to pay me a compliment. She said that hanging out with me during our training sessions is fun, but my fun personality doesn't come through in my blogs. She suggested that once in a while I should blog about more lighthearted topics.

So, this blog is my attempt at being lighthearted (I am not sure how good I will be at it, but hopefully I will get points for trying). I put my slightly more serious blog on hold and I am dedicating this blog to two really fun topics!

1. My favorite interval workouts! (Interval workouts are what I consider fun!)

2. Using interval workouts to train for a spring or summer running race!

So, let's get on with it! My favorite Interval workouts! (With this many exclamation points, how could anyone not be having a good time?)

I usually do these interval workouts while running or cycling, but you can also use any cardio machine you like. To avoid getting bored, try mixing up the machine you use. One day do intervals on the rower. Another day try the bike, treadmill or elliptical. You could even do the intervals outside while you swim or roller blade!

Workout #1 - Easy Pick-ups

Warm-up for five minutes. Do 10 minutes at your regular speed (and regular level if you are on a machine like the elliptical that has levels). Then, cycle through the following pattern for 10 minutes: alternate 30 seconds at regular speed, 20 seconds slightly faster and 10 seconds fast. Finish with five to 15 minutes of cardio at your regular speed and level. Cool down for five minutes.

Workout # 2 - Pyramid Intervals

Warm-up for five minutes. Do one minute hard. One minute easy. Two minutes hard. Two minutes moderate. Three minutes hard. Three minutes moderate. Four minutes hard. Four minutes moderate. Five minutes hard. One minute easy. Five minutes hard. Cool down for five to 10 minutes.

Workout # 3 - Mini pick-ups

Warm-up for five minutes. Do five minutes at regular speed. Alternate 15 seconds hard with 45 seconds moderate for 10 minutes. Recover for two minutes. Then, repeat the intervals by alternating 15 seconds hard with 45 seconds at regular speed. Cool down for five to eight minutes.

Workout # 4 - "Brick" Workout

A 'brick' workout is where you do two different activities back to back with no rest. As a triathlete I do brick workouts that combine swimming and biking or biking and running. You can use any piece of equipment. For example, use the rower and then the treadmill.

The workout:

Brick Part 1: 20 minutes on any piece of equipment. Warm-up for five minutes. Do 10 minutes at the hardest intensity you can hold for the entire 10 minutes. Finish with five minutes of moderate intensity cardio.

Brick Part 2: As soon as you finish the above workout, start your second activity. Do five minutes of moderate work. Then, do 10 minutes at the hardest intensity you can hold for the entire 10 minutes. Finish with five minutes of light cardio to cool down.

Train For a Race!

Sign up for an upcoming running race. Having an established (and pre-paid) goal can help you stay motivated, and the training can actually be lots of fun. Train with a friend and/or use the race as an excuse to explore different neighborhoods.

I am currently in planning mode -- scheduling races for both my clients and myself. I find signing up for a race extremely motivating. I like having a goal to work towards. If I am signed up for a race I am much less likely to skip a workout. I don't want it to be race day and for me not to be able to complete the distance. Crossing the finish line creates feelings of exhilaration, empowerment and catharsis. I highly recommend trying it.

To use the above interval workouts as part of your training routine, first pick the distance you want to complete. Then pick the date and location of the race so you can plan your training program appropriately. Let's say you want to complete a 10km race. Plan to train three times per week. Once a week do a long run that progressively increases in distance. Your long run should start at about 6km and work up to 10km. Your second weekly run should be an easy 5km run. Your third weekly run should be one of the interval workouts outlined above. It should be between 4km and 8km.

Lastly, don't forget to have fun! The world is your interval-fitness oyster!

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