By Tim Kauppinen

Interval Training is one of the best ways to reach your health and fitness goals. That's the reason you are seeing more and more written on the benefits of alternating short bursts of high intensity with periods of lower intensity exercise.

And, if you're like me, you've seen the laundry list of these benefits. Benefits you can't get from traditional long, slow cardio. To recap:

- Interval training can decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and the onset of diabetes

- Interval training can burn more fat than traditional cardio – even burning fat up to 24 hours after the end of your exercise session

- Interval training has been shown to be the best type of exercise to reduce belly fat – a leading indicator in the development of metabolic syndrome

- Interval training can teach your body to burn fat first during activity

- Interval training can add lean muscle to your frame – muscle that boosts your metabolism, helping you burn more calories

- Interval training can hep increase the release of Human Growth Hormone – the essential substance in building and repairing muscle, keeping bones healthy and burning fat naturally

Why Doesn't Everyone Interval Train?


"Why doesn't everyone do interval training,"you might be thinking, "when it does all of these great things?"


Because you must be a little bit cautious in switching to high intensity training. You must build up gradually so that you don't risk getting hurt. It's difficult to just jump right into high intensity training.


I had this very problem when I started interval training again in my mid-thirties. I tried to go back to the workouts I had done 10 or 15 years earlier and I paid a price.


The method I tried to use involved running sprints at the local high school track. And it worked in that I felt better, had more energy and dropped some serious fat. But, trying to be a little too gung ho, I forgot that my body hadn't moved this way in a long time. As a result, I started to run into problems like pulled hamstrings, strained calf muscles and sore Achilles tendons...

The Safest Interval Training Method

That's when I started to look around for a better way to run my intervals. And what I found worked wonders.

I decided to go back to basics. To go back to a workout that I had used in high school (and seen plenty of elite athletes incorporate into their training). The answer that I found to making interval training safer was: the hill sprint.

The only change I made to my interval training was to take it to a hill instead of sprinting on a flat. The difference was dramatic.

Less Chance of Injury

First of all, running intervals on an incline made all of my little nagging muscle pulls and tweaks disappear. I was able to train at a high intensity without having to worry about injury.

One reason for this is that sprinting on an incline decreases the impact that running has on your body. Flat surface sprinting can place a lot of pounding on your shins, knees and back. Hill sprints alleviate most of this high impact punishment. Studies have shown that adding even a slight incline to your running decreased the impact on your lower legs by as much as 26%.

Interval training on hills is also safer for your hamstrings – one of the most commonly seen sites of injury when increasing the intensity of your workouts. Because your stride is shortened slightly when going up hill, you tend not to over-stride and pull with your hamstrings. But, in this case, you plant close under your center of gravity, switching the focus to your leg muscles that push. This means you can run fast, and have less of a chance of pulling the old hammies.

Get Results Faster

The second reason that hill sprinting is a great way to interval train is that it's an easy way to increase the intensity of your workout, no matter what your current level of fitness is. Just by going up a hill (or stairs, or bleachers), the intensity of your workout is automatically increased. If you currently walk, walking uphill will be "high" intensity. If you can sprint, sprinting uphill will raise the intensity even further. And if you are somewhere in between, the hill will provide the same benefits.

What this means is that you can start interval training right away. You don't have to work up as gradually as you would doing flat sprints. Your progression from walking to sprinting can be done in a shorter period of time.

Get More Done in Less Time

Finally, using hills for interval training can decrease the length of your workouts. Again, because the incline raises the intensity, it is not necessary to go as far or as long as you would with flat surface intervals. Give them a try and you'll be surprised how fast you are "huffing and puffing" as recommended for maximum health benefits.

If you've been putting off the start of your interval training because you don't want to get hurt, I've just given you a solution to your problem. Taking your intervals to the hills, stairs or bleachers will allow you to start RIGHT NOW. This training can be safer than flat intervals and just as effective. In fact, potentially even more effective in a given period of time.

No more excuses. Time for you to get results.

Tim Alan Kauppinen, or Coach K, has over 20 years experience as an athlete and coach. He has developed champion athletes across multiple sports through speed training, strength improvement and conditioning.