Use Interval Training To Burn Off Winter Fat

October 29, 2011 · 8 comments

This is a guest post by Dr. Ron Fritzke.

Some of us sun-loving people who live in an area of the country that gets four distinct seasons are getting a little edgy about now. Fall is in the air and there’s no denying what comes next.

The short days and cold winds of winter will be here before we know it.

For me that means not being able to get outside to do the types of exercise I prefer, and therefore a lot more exercise indoors on my bicycle stationary trainer. Even more disturbing…winter holidays get me started eating too many sweets.

All of this results in regaining some of the body fat I worked so hard to shed over the summer.

A Tool In The Arsenal…HIIT

There’s been quite a buzz in the fitness world lately about a type of exercise called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT for short). This concept of exercising in a ‘hard-easy-hard-easy’ pattern isn’t new. It’s just been appreciated lately by those outside of the hardcore track and field, swimming, and cycling worlds.

Interval training was essential to getting into peak conditioning as far back as the 1950′s.

Now you can use these same concepts to more effectively utilize exercise in your efforts to keep the weight off during the winter.

A Personal Story, Intervals, and Shedding Weight

After my last race in 1984, I hung up my racing shoes and restricted my fitness running to cardio workouts. That’s the type of exercise that can be sustained for long periods of time without going into ‘oxygen debt’. For me, it was a series of runs between 5 and 10 miles, done approximately 5 times weekly.

Sounds like something that should be adequate to combat weight loss, doesn’t it?

But over the years my weight was inching upward, and it wasn’t until my kids got old enough to start running competitively that I rediscovered a secret weapon of the fitness world. I began running intervals with them.

Then I noticed a few things.

First off, my heart rate remained relatively elevated for hours after the workout. Of course it wasn’t beating as hard as during the workout. But it was certainly tapping along at 15 to 20 beats above my normal resting heart rate.

And that was when I was sitting on the couch…sitting on the couch burning off fat while I watched the 49ers get whipped by any number of better football teams.

How do you like that…free fat burning time!

Which brings me to my second observation…you guessed it, my weight started to drop.

Serving Up A Couple Of Interval Workouts

Have you ever noticed the little disclaimers advising you to check with your doctor before initiating a new exercise protocol? Well, in the case of interval training the disclaimer is even more appropriate since this form of exercise can be very strenuous.

Without further ado, here’s a couple of interval workouts I do on my Kurt Kinetic Road Machine trainer.

This first example is a classic HIIT workout (very short and very intense on the hard parts):

  • 5 minute warm-up.
  • 10 minutes alternating ten seconds of ‘all out’ pedaling with easy pedaling.
  • 5 minute warm-down.

This second interval workout is the type that would be done by an athlete getting ready to optimize conditioning for their sport:

  • 10 minute warm-up.
  • 2 minutes hard, followed by one minute easy pedaling.
  • 3 minutes hard, followed by one and a half minutes easy pedaling.
  • 4 minutes hard, followed by two minutes easy pedaling.
  • 5 minutes hard, followed by two and a half minutes easy pedaling.
  • 6 minutes hard, followed by three minutes easy pedaling.
  • 5 minutes hard, followed by two and a half minutes easy pedaling.
  • 4 minutes hard, followed by two minutes easy pedaling.
  • 3 minutes hard, followed by one and a half minutes easy pedaling.
  • 2 minutes hard.
  • 10 minute warm-down.

This second workout is most likely not appropriate for a ‘casual’ fitness buff, but I’ve included it as an insight into the kinds of interval training that professional- and Olympic-level athletes have been doing for years.

Give Interval Training A Try

There’s nothing very magical about the formulas of interval training. If your intention is to restrict yourself to HIIT, there are some guidelines outlined in this Wikipedia article.

But if you’d like to lose some weight using a looser form of interval training, just throw in a series of efforts that you can’t sustain for more than a few minutes…follow them up with a ‘rest’ interval…and repeat the cycle.

Whatever style of intervals you choose, they’ll add variety to your workouts…and no doubt allow you to drop those few stubborn pounds.

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Ron Fritzke October 29, 2011 at 9:09 am

It’s a privilege to contribute to John’s site. If you have questions or comments I’ll be happy to address them as I’m able.

Troy - Cube.Dweller.Fitness October 30, 2011 at 3:47 pm


Nicely done. I’ve become a huge advocate for interval training of … any kind. It could be because of my personality, but steady-state ANYTHING drives me nuts. Adding in some interval work makes exercising a lot more fun. Turns out it makes it more effective as well - nice benefit, right?

You mentioned doing intervals both running and cycling. Which do you prefer? Also when you do running intervals are they all “flat-land”, or do you do hill sprints for intervals?


Ron Fritzke October 30, 2011 at 11:47 pm

I’d like to say that I still have the option of doing running or cycling intervals, but that isn’t the case. It was because of a running injury that I took up cycling.

When I was running, I personally liked hill repeats because I felt like they made me very strong, rather than merely adding to leg speed. Running hill repeats extremely hard is also a mental boost, since it feels like quite an accomplishment.

In general, hill intervals were good for the kind of ‘grind em out’ type of race that I was good at. “Flat-land” intervals can be for strength if they are on the long side…or they can be for leg speed if they are short in duration.

On the bike, hills or flats don’t make as much of a difference to me, since ‘watts is watts’. By that I mean that I do the prescribed workout at a given watt level, which can be achieved by either going on the flats against air resistance, or up a hill against gravity…only the speed is altered.

Thanks for the comment,

Doug November 4, 2011 at 11:48 am

When I was re-habbing my knees, I found that before they were up to the pounding of long-duration cardio, I could perform HIIT sprints with no knee pain.

After a month of HIIT training, I had fallen in love with them


Mike Bluestone November 6, 2011 at 9:06 am

Ron, as a personal trainer I appreciate when people discuss interval training because too often I see the same people at the gym get on a piece of equipment and go without an agenda. While this is better than not moving at all, it leads to a plateau. Have you ever used heart rate as a means of measuring workload?

I have a series of heart rate interval training routines on my blog that are developed by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and you are welcome to download them and share with your readers.

Mike Bluestone November 6, 2011 at 9:07 am
Ron Fritzke November 6, 2011 at 9:56 am

Hi Mike,

Thanks for sharing your training routines. I went to your site and it is very well done…readers should give it a look.

Before I got a Powertap meter on my bike to measure wattage, I did my intervals with a heart-rate monitor. That gave me a good understanding of how hard I was riding. The one pitfall was that there is a ‘lag’ between an increase or decrease in effort and the resultant change in heart-rate. There were times I’d have to guess if my effort was going to cause my heart-rate to ‘creep’ up to where I intended it to be for that interval.

But, the heart-rate monitor is certainly better than what I had proposed in the article above (ride hard, then easy), and expecting most exercisers to buy a thousand dollar Power-tap isn’t realistic.

So…the heart-rate style is a very good idea, and your site lays it out very well.

Thanks for the conversation,

Mike Bluestone November 6, 2011 at 10:38 am

Thanks for the complements Ron, they are appreciated. I agree with your points. The objectives of those routines are to ultimately improve ones cardiorespiratory efficiencies thus increasing their stroke volume, lowering the stress placed on the heart for any intensity, and lowering the resting heart rate. For the avid outdoor bicyclist they are far too structured given you can not perfectly time the spike and lowering of intensity due to the fact that you are not in control of when a plateau or hill will be present.

Perhaps the routines will be useful for the cyclist who is in colder climates this time of year and must train in doors.

Thanks again and keep up the good work Ron!

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