Interval Training: How To Differentiate (Part Four)

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In the last article, we explored the importance of both context and content when considering Interval Training and how we might utilise digital as a tool to help reduce the sacrifices an exerciser might face. We then began discussing some of the variables one must consider when programming Interval Training experiences.

For this last article in the series, we will continue this train of thought…

Higher Intensity

Working at higher levels of intensity is effective but if an exerciser cannot complete the planned session and they do not feel a sense of achievement afterwards, the chances of them returning is lowered. With unaccustomed workloads, we are all aware of the long-term soreness that could manifest itself, post workout.

As Tom Purvis of Resistance Training Specialists says, ‘there is a difference between a suntan and sun burn’. This soreness can affect adherence. We know greater adherence leads to greater retention, so doing everything possible to encourage an exerciser to continually return, in any session, is paramount.

This means the work and rest intensity and timings of each interval session are key. An interval session has to be planned so that it not only has a effect on the long-term outcome, it also has an effect on the exerciser’s feelings.

Doing this to build exerciser confidence and raise/maintain their motivation will drive positive behaviours, which in-turn affects adherence and thus retention.

Work at higher intensities can bring plenty of positives but as an industry, we need to be mindful that some individuals may well be uncomfortable with working at these levels too early on in their training programming.

Long-term soreness may be a reaction to high intensity work which the exerciser may then associate Interval Training with feeling uncomfortable.

This could be seen as a negative experience. To overcome this we must have a number of strategies that support short-term confidence building in the exerciser, and long-term adherence.

Interval Strategies

Some interval strategies to consider are:

  1. Start as low as you can go with intensity. Most people returning to exercise will forgive an instructor for starting too low, they are unlikely to forgive an instructor if long-term soreness is an outcome. Starting low allows the instructor to embed good habits regarding exercise technique which will also help build confidence, and lead to long-term adherence.
  2. Educate the exerciser on how to self-monitor intensity. Start this as early as possible on their Interval Training journey as it will pay dividends regarding long-term adherence to an Interval Training programme.
  3. Periodise programming based on the individual – whether it’s power based, heart rate based or RPE based (Borg – Rate of Perceived Exertion). This is the personalised experience approach.
  4. If possible, prioritise progressing frequency or duration first. Maybe start with one session per week as part of an overall exercise routine, and progress to 2 interval sessions, before progressing intensity.

With these options though, we must ensure that we are offering an experience, whether it’s in a class format or one to one.

Please allow us to explain…‘Work is theatre’ [3] is a term that I read recently. An Interval Training offering that tells a story to reinforce why an exerciser should continually consume the service, is vital when it comes to offering value.

The story should be reinforced at every touch point in the exerciser’s journey, meaning instructors and PTs have a huge part to play within the Interval Training offering. If the experience offered is going to be of high worth, when it comes to exchange value the human touch must be present.

According to J. Pine, (The Experience Economy), experiences are ‘staged’ and they are ‘theatre’. One way to ensure this is to create experiences are that are ‘entertaining’. The purpose of the Interval Training session is still to ensure a safe and effective workout, but this is just the ‘what we do’. ‘How we do what we do’ is what people will likely remember.

Clients now value more than the service (what we do) that is offered, they value the feelings and sensations they uniquely experience during each session, (how we do it). The behaviours of the session deliverer (instructor or PT) through the interaction (both verbal and non-verbal), the teaching, and how they continue to reinforce the story that the exerciser craves are what stimulate emotions in the exerciser.

Please remember after all that people consume services because of how the offering or product makes them feel! Services become experiences because of the individual positive feelings associated with the service.

So, moving forward we need to think of the Interval Training session as the ‘stage’, the equipment used in the sessions are the ‘props’ and the deliverer is the ‘engaging experience’ [4]. Just like an actor brings the play to life, so the instructor or PT brings the Interval Training session to life.

In summary, Interval Training is not simply about the content, i.e. the work to rest ratios, the intensity, the volume, the frequency, or the modality (exercise type). Instead Interval Training is all of the above and more. For the vast majority of our exercisers, Interval Training is scary or hard and is perceived as being only for the fit or performance driven. In fact though, how Interval Training is both prescribed and delivered is what makes this great training method wholly appropriate for the masses.

Interval Training for the non-athlete though is an art form rather than a run of the numbers and following the work to ratio guidelines. As long as Interval Training is prescribed and delivered according to the audience (their physiological demands and their psychological need), it can be used for those in cardiac rehabilitation, the new to exercise, the older exerciser, the beach body seeker or to the intermediate looking for better adaptations.

Interval Training really is for all as long as we package, sell and deliver it appropriately.

Written by Keith Smith

Link to Excelsior original article here 

Links to Interval Training – Parts 1, 2 & 3:

Part 1  –  Here

Part 2  –  Here 

Part 3  –  Here 

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