Smart Ways to Make Intervals Easier

New approaches, backed by research, will make these powerful performance boosters feel less painful. – By Selene Yeager

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It’s a no-brainer that intervals can make you faster on your bike, but these all-out efforts leave many cyclists begging for mercy. Now it appears that those pleas have been answered. Two just-published studies reveal some smart strategies that can help those eye-popping efforts feel easier. Start today and you’ll feel faster in no time.

RELATED: High Intensity Intervals to Meet Your Goals

Do more with less. This is great news for people who hate intervals. According to a recent study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, quick 30-second bursts can yield big results—especially for cyclists who are new to interval training. Researchers found that when they reduced the duration, riders maintained a higher intensity because they knew the effort would end shortly. Participants also left the workout with a more positive impression, which meant that they were more likely to continue on. A good protocol: Warm up for 10 minutes. Go all out for 30 seconds. Recover for 60 to 90 seconds. Repeat eight times. Cool down 10 minutes. Done! Two to three times a week is plenty.Turn up the tunes. Music tames the savage beastmode. In a study of men and women performing 30-second Wingate Anaerobic Tests—sprints so hard the tester places a bucket on the floor by you, “just in case”—the volunteers produced more power and consistently enjoyed the exercise more when they were allowed to listen to music than when they hammered them out in silence.

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Bonus benefit: If you’re looking to lose a few pounds, intervals can help by giving your metabolism a turbo shot and boosting fat loss. Another study published this week in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reports that exercisers tend to eat less at the meal following a high-intensity session and they have better blood-sugar control as well, both of which can help aid weight loss and maintenance as well as general health.

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