How to Become an Interval Training Specialist

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Interval training, once reserved only for elite athletes, is now the go-to exercise for everyone from beginners to well-conditioned fitness buffs. Consisting of bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity, interval training may be the perfect addition to your personal training repertoire and one of the most effective tools for taking your clients’ fitness programs to the next level.

What is Interval Training?

Interval training can be best described as a series of peaks and valleys, with more intense activities at the peaks and less intense activities at the valleys. For example, if you perform interval training and your activity is walking, you may insert bursts of running in between walking.

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The general principle for interval training involves pushing your body past its aerobic threshold for a number of minutes, returning to an aerobic conditioning level for a few minutes, and completing the process a number of additional times.

The concept behind interval training is that the body produces lactic acid during high-intensity intervals. As such, interval training is designed to allow the body to adapt and burn lactic acid more efficiently during exercise, thus allowing individuals to exercise at a higher intensity for a longer period of time without becoming fatigued.

The Concept Behind Interval Training

Although the concept of interval training is the same for everyone, as a personal trainer you can take interval training to many levels, depending on your clients’ physical abilities and endurance levels. An interval training session may therefore vary according to the length and speed of each high-intensity activity.

A typical interval training session for walkers/runners, which begins after a warm-up period, may include walking for 30 seconds and running for 30 seconds. The next burst of running may increase to 60 seconds, followed by a period of walking for 60 seconds, and so on. The highest bursts of intense activity may last up to 2 to 3 minutes.

As a personal trainer, your interval training sessions are likely to be a bit more scientific, timing the intensity and duration of your clients’ intervals to coincide with similar movement patterns in their favorite sport or activity. Your calculations may take into consideration your clients’ target heart rate, their peak oxygen intake, and a number of other factors. Your interval training sessions with your elite athletes may even include anaerobic threshold testing, which includes measuring their blood-lactate during intense exercise.

Your interval training sessions will likely be set up using an active-recovery ratio (work: active-recovery) in intervals of minutes. For example, your client’s interval training may be biking at 10 mph for a period of three minutes, followed by biking at 25 mph for a period of one minute. Therefore, the first leg of the interval training session would be a 3:1 ratio for a total period of 4 minutes. Following a 30-minute workout, your client would complete the ratio about 7 times before the final cool down.

You can manipulate your interval training workouts by switching up the following four variables:

  • Intensity (speed) of work interval
  • Duration (distance or time) of work interval
  • Duration of rest or recovery interval
  • Number of repetitions of each interval

The Benefits of Interval Training

Interval training—increasing and decreasing your physical activity, and your heart rate—results a number of benefits:

  • Interval training burns more calories by pushing past your aerobic capacity.
  • Interval training improves your aerobic capacity and stamina over time (cardiovascular efficiency).
  • Interval training is a fun alternative to a typical aerobic workout.
  • Interval training will improve your conditioning and athletic performance, including speed as an athlete.
  • Interval training helps avoid injuries associated with repetitive overuse, which is common among endurance athletes.
  • Interval training improves recovery time for athletes.

Interval training may result in overtraining, which may then result in aches, pains, fatigue, and injury, so this type of exercise is ideal for personal training sessions since you’ll be needed to help prevent clients from over doing it. As a personal trainer, you can monitor your clients’ interval training sessions and their response to interval training to ensure that they are not overtraining.

How to Become a Personal Trainer Focused on Interval Training

Your first step to becoming a personal trainer generally includes getting a relevant education and training, which is achieved through the completion of an associate or bachelor degree in a program related to personal training. In addition to degrees in personal training, many personal trainers also pursue associate or bachelor degrees in related areas of study, such as:

  • Exercise science
  • Physical education
  • Exercise physiology
  • Fitness and health

A program in personal training provides a sound course of study in topics such as:

  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Kinesiology
  • Exercise physiology
  • Fitness analysis and assessment
  • Exercise prescription for specialty populations

A degree program also generally culminates in a practical experience, which allows students to apply their theoretical knowledge in a real-world setting.

You may also choose to pursue professional certification in personal training, a standard requirement among fitness employers and a sign of professional competence in the industry.

You may begin to market yourself as an interval training expert by achieving professional certification in this fitness specialty:

  • American Council on Exercise, Sports Conditioning Specialist
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine, Performance Enhancement Specialist
  • The Cooper Institute, Interval Training Workshop
  • American Fitness Professionals Association, Sports Conditioning Specialist
  • Agility Training Institute, Certified Speed and Agility Trainer

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