How to Boost Your Fitness with Special Training Techniques

You can use many training techniques to challenge your body and maximize your fitness, including interval training, Fartlek workouts, uphill training, and tempo workouts. You can try these training techniques after about a month or two of training at 50 to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate. The less conditioning you start with, the more cautious you should be.

  • Interval training: With interval training, you alternate short, fairly intense spurts of exercise with periods of relatively easy exercise. For example, say you’re out bicycling. After warming up for 15 minutes or so, you may try cycling all-out for 30 seconds and follow this with a few minutes of easy pedaling until your heart rate slows down a little, to about 120 or fewer beats per minute. Then you do another tough 30-second interval, and so on. In essence, you’re switching between the low and high ends of your target heart-rate zone.

    When you first try interval training, keep the high-intensity periods short — 15 to 30 seconds. Follow these periods with at least three times as much active rest (so, 45 to 90 seconds). Active rest means that you keep moving between intervals instead of stopping dead. So after you do that 30-second bike sprint, pedal slowly for about 90 seconds. You may need even more recovery than that, especially if you’re a beginner. As you become more accustomed to higher levels, you can increase the length of the high-intensity intervals as you decrease the length of the low-intensity intervals. Eventually, you can aim for a 1:1 hard-to-easy ratio, measuring intervals in terms of time or distance.

  • Fartlek: This charming word means “speed play” in Swedish. Fartlek is basically interval training without an exact measure of time or distance. You just do your intervals whenever you feel like it. You may try sprinting to every other telephone pole. Or set your sights on that horse standing in the field down the road and pick up your pace until you reach him.

  • Uphill battles: You can add hills to walking, biking, running, or skating workouts. You have to work harder when you come to a hill, but ultimately you’re rewarded with extra strength and stamina. As a bonus, going uphill can burn twice as many calories as exercising on flat land. One fun drill is to do hill repeats. Find a long, fairly steep hill and then sprint up it and jog down it, repeating this sequence four to eight times.

    Here’s a trick to make hill workouts seem easier: Pick a landmark that’s partway up the hill, such as a tree or mailbox. Pretend that you have a rope in your hands and cast it over your landmark. Now pull yourself up the hill with your imaginary rope. When you reach your landmark, cast your rope on something farther up the hill and keep doing this until you reach the top.

  • Tempo workouts: Tempo workouts help you learn to move faster. During a tempo drill, you move at a pace that you consider challenging but not brutal, keeping that pace for four to ten minutes. Do that a couple of times each workout. In between, exercise at your normal pace. If you’re new to tempo training, begin with short tempos and gradually increase their length. Anyone training for a local road race or a bike-a-thon will find tempo work helpful.

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