And the Trainer Sez

Intervals Demystified


Q:Help a girlfriend out, please! I finally joined the gym and am confused by the new cardio classes — Tabata, HIIT and 321 to name a few. What happened to Step Class? I just want to lose some pounds. —Kathryn, 45

A: I get it, my friend; the new classes can seem daunting, especially when all you want to do is have an idea about what class you are rushing to. Honestly, if you ever played sports or participated in any training program, your coach probably incorporated interval training methods. The reason there are new classes based on them is that they work. The classes stem from high intensity interval training, or HIIT. Interval training is alternating intense activity with intervals of lighter activity. The more intense intervals burn more calories per minute than exercising at a steady pace.  
     During interval training, measure your level of heart rate and effort intensity against the Borg Scale of perceived exertion, a subjective scale ranging from 6 (no exertion) to 20 (very, very hard, or similar to racing against Olympian Michael Phelps). Do the following as many times as your time allows, with 30 minutes average duration and up to 45 minutes the max.
     Follow these guidelines, and you will see changes in your waistline within two weeks.

Interval Training Methods

  • Tabata — Created by Izumi Tabata in Japan, this is a method of high-intensity interval training in 4-minute segments. The segments are broken into 8 rounds of 20 seconds intense speed work and 10 seconds of recovery. Use a timer, such as a Tabata application, to keep you on track.
  • 3-2-1 — This means 3 minutes intense cardio, 2 minutes strength work, 1 minute core work, all done with high intensity and using a timer with 10–20 seconds of recovery between sets. It’s efficient and effective, combining both cardio and strength work.
  • HIIT — HIIT is sprint interval training, working with the high-intensity intervals for 30–120 seconds with a break of 10–20 seconds in between to res

The great news is all the workout methods improve athletic performance, glucose metabolism and improved fat-burning capacity. So even if you go for a run, use the stop signs or trees as markers to work in intervals. Guaranteed by the end of your miles, you’ll feel challenged.

Erin Kreitz Shirey is an Alameda trainer and the founder of Power Fitness PDX. Connect with her at and

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