How and Why to Add Intervals to Your Workouts

You’ve heard you should do interval training but how and more importantly why?


Intervals are an important training technique because you can push your body harder for shorter periods of time than for a long duration. Challenging your body to go beyond the usual effort is necessary for positive physiological adaptations to occur. High intensity intervals result in greater fitness and give you confidence in what your body is capable of without failure. You will learn to push your limits!


Think you don’t need to do intervals because you’re not a competitive athlete? Wrong! No matter what your ability or goals you will benefit from reaching above what you usually do for a workout. Want to lose weight? Add intervals, harder efforts will burn more calories.


Before I go on I should provide a disclaimer – prior to starting any exercise program especially one that includes intervals you should check with your health care provider to make sure you are healthy enough to do intense exercise. You should also have a good aerobic base before including intervals in your exercise routine.


Now that you’re convinced and ready to do intervals, where do you start? The table below outlines the three categories of intervals most commonly used by coaches. The table displays intervals from the longest duration and least intense to shortest duration and most intense. Generally, intervals are done in sets and gradually introduced into the training program in this progression.



Interval Type Intensity Duration Recovery
Lactate Threshold Just above time trial 5-20 min. Short, ~ 1/3 interval time
VO2 Max Very difficult 3-6 min. Same as interval time
Neuromuscular Power (Sprints) Maximal intensity 8-30 sec. Complete


Interval Benefits

Lactate Threshold – improve your body’s ability to remove lactate, a byproduct of anaerobic (without Oxygen) metabolism, from your muscles so you can maintain a high work load without fatigue and exercise longer at that intense pace.

VO2 Max – increase the amount of oxygen delivered to the working muscles so you can maintain your power output during maximal efforts.

Neuromuscular Power – gain greater fluidity, balance, and coordination at maximal effort so you have the speed to win the final sprint.


When deciding which intervals to add to your program always consider your goals, the demands of the events you will be doing, and your personal strengths and weakness. Adequate easy days between interval workouts are also critical to prevent over training and injury.

Related Posts

How to End Your Preoccupation with Pain

How to End Your Preoccupation with Pain

Do you continually worry about and focus on your pain? Do you put pressure on yourself to figure out how to fix your pain and become frustrated or angry when the pain doesn’t go away? Do you degrade yourself because you’re still hurting? Do you fight against the pain...

4Islands MTB Croatia: No Pain No Gain?

4Islands MTB Croatia: No Pain No Gain?

4Islands MTB Croatia is the fourth cycling stage race I have completed. It all started In 2016 when my husband Ken suggested going to South Africa for a nine-day mountain bike stage race to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. We loved it! So we continued the...

About the Author


Jessica uses an integrative approach to help you overcome chronic pain. She believes in treating the whole person utilizing the biopsychosocial approach to healing. Her offerings include posture therapy, online exercise classes, pain science education, and individual or group wellness coaching. She is certified by the Postural Restoration Institute® (PRI), Egoscue University®, National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), American Council on Exercise (ACE) and Wellcoaches.