*Editor's note: Every week my colleague Ron Kaspriske, Golf Digest Fitness Editor, presents Fitness Friday on the Instruction Blog. He gives you a great health and fitness tip or an exercise or stretch to get your body warmed up for the weekend. This week he offers his thoughts on the benefits of interval training versus steady-state cardio training, and tells you which is best for golf. Remember to follow me on Twitter @RogerSchiffman.
*Many people have asked about the benefits of interval training when compared to steady-state cardio training. Intervals are any exercise that alternates periods of strenuous activity with periods of considerably lower activity. Steady-state cardio is any exercise where the level of activity remains roughly the same throughout.
"Intervals leave steady-state cardio in the dust," says Chris Noss, one of the top trainers on the PGA Tour. Here are four reasons why you should incorporate interval training into your workout.
1. Golf is a "burst" sport, meaning it's played with short bursts of energy followed by periods of low activity. Interval training helps prepare the body for those bursts. Even better, it trains the body to perform under duress. So even though you're mentally stressed about hitting that wedge shot over water or keeping steady over that crucial putt, you'll have the physical coordination to pull it off.
2. The up-and-down nature of intervals makes your heart work harder and keeps the body from getting used to the activity. Steady-state cardio suffers from the law of diminishing returns because the body adapts to stress over time and doesn't have to work as hard to perform the same activity. With intervals, you're making your heart stronger.
3. Because you are training your heart to be in a steady state of alertness, intervals help raise your metabolism and are proven to be more effective at burning fat than is steady-state cardio.
4. And perhaps the most appealing reason is that studies have shown 15 to 20 minutes of interval training has a greater health benefit than 60 minutes of steady-state cardio. Not only does it save time, but it also puts a lot less stress on the joints you're already damaging when you play golf.
You can turn just about any strenuous physical activity into an interval training session. Even strength training can be done in intervals by taking very short breaks between sets. Trust me, you'll be gasping for air in little time.
Here is a sample interval workout I routinely do on the treadmill. Keep in mind that the speeds I'm running at might be too fast/slow for you. You should adjust to your level of fitness, physical limitations, etc. You want your fastest speeds to be about 80 percent of what you could do if you were running full out.
Do a three-minute warm-up at 6.5 mph, then alternate walking at 4 mph for 60 seconds and running at 8 mph for 60 seconds. Keep the walk/run pattern consistent except for increasing the speed you run by 0.5 mph with each cycle up to 10 mph. Then decrease the run speed by 0.5 mph until you get back down to 8.5 mph. Total time should be 20 minutes.
-- Ron Kaspriske