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An interval workout is a specially designed workout method in which a participant will vary the intensity of the exercise at various times throughout the workout period. Runners and cyclists often participate in interval workouts, though other types of athletes can modify their workouts accordingly as well. Most interval training workouts involve starting at a moderate pace as a warm-up, then ramping up the speed or intensity slightly for an extended period of time. After a set period of time, the person will then ramp up to near-maximum intensity for a short burst, then return to the moderate to slightly elevated speed.
The advantages of an interval workout include increased cardiovascular performance, higher likelihood of fat burning and weight loss, and a more thoroughly developed set of muscles that can handle a variety of exercising conditions. Running, cycling, or otherwise exercising at a moderate pace for a set period of time can lead to plateaus in an athlete's development, and it may not be as effective at burning fat, so an interval workout can help an athlete perform at a higher level, burn fat, and become a more well balanced athlete in general. The muscles in the body will be better prepared to handle a variety of athletic situations rather than just a moderate intensity or pace.
An interval workout may look something like this:
This schedule of varied pace can be extended for as long as the athlete sees fit, or it can be shortened. The exact details of the workout will vary by according to the athlete's current physical state as well as his or her athletic goals. This workout is particularly intense, so it is very important to stretch thoroughly both before and after the workout to prevent muscle injuries, soreness, and other discomfort.
Sprinters may alter the workout above to include far shorter rest periods. A sprinter might, for example, sprint at near full speed for 90 seconds, then rest for 40 seconds. A pyramid workout can be done in this fashion as well to vary the rest periods as well as the periods of higher intensity.