Interval Training: How to Differentiate (Part One)

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The aim of this 4 part series is to explore the factors that contribute to an effective long-term use of this training approach with the general population. Remembering that long-term effectiveness requires the exerciser to continue to adhere to exercise. Which means that a facility, instructor or PT needs not only to consider the physiological responses to each session, but also how each session affects the exerciser psychologically.

Interval Training

There is an abundance of up to date science and guidelines available to us, and Interval Training has become a go-to training approach for facilities, instructors and Personal Trainers (PT’s) to utilise with members and clients. With a whole range of specific outcomes available from increasing speed, endurance, through to fat loss and maintaining muscle mass, it is a useful training tool.

Interval training can be traced back to around 1819 and it was also heavily used by athletes from Sweden [with great success] in the 1920’s. The first scientific research around interval training was during the 1930’s, with the purpose of investigating how and what volume of high intensity work could be performed to ensure long-term benefits.

Before moving on, I should mention that I do not work in sport and I am not interested in sport – I am very proud to say that I work with individuals who are part of the ‘general population’.

Those hard-working people who attend a fitness facility 1, 2 or 3 times per week, who have busy lives and are aiming to spend a few hours per week putting some time into themselves, for whatever reason.

As our industry matures, simply offering outcome-based promises around weight-loss, toning-up, looking better, improving health and wellbeing, is no longer enough. Facilities, instructors and PTs must offer more. In today’s market space – which includes a whole spectrum of goods and services from informative books and magazines that offer a ton of advice and guidance, to the traditional facility space, the small studio, app based and online offerings (some of which is free) – just offering measurable outcomes may not be sufficient.

It could be argued that there is a lack of value [worth] in the exerciser’s mind in just offering a fitness based result – there needs to be more. Value or worth, in the mind of the exerciser may be a great place to start. In the coming section, we’ll discuss value before applying this to interval training.

According to M. Watkinson (The 10 Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences), value [worth] can be separated into 4 individual areas: Functional Value, Sign Value, Symbolic Value and Exchange Value.

Functional Value is about goods and services doing what they say they will do. A watch that tells the time, a pen that supplies ink to paper, an airline that gets you to your destination, a hotel that offers a room. In these examples the user gets exactly what was offered. Many people like this as it’s where they see the value [worth], and they pay accordingly. The payment is known as exchange value, and with functional value the payment [exchange value] for offering functional value is low.

In fact, the above examples can only differentiate themselves on price. For this target audience, the lower the price the better, and so to be successful and grow in this area a high volume of sales is required.

Knowing your audience is key. Having an Interval Training offering that is of functional value (it does the job it is required to do) for the end user, is about knowing your target audience and understanding how to reach them. It could be argued that functional value is offered in app based and online training, books, and magazines, where they offer the exerciser what is required to achieve a specific result.

For facilities, instructors and PT’s to flourish, Interval Training needs to offer more than just functional value to the exerciser. This is because for a high volume of members training this way is unlikely to be achieved when the perception is that interval training is for the fit or those who seek to suffer in their workout.


Chris & Keith from Excelsior

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