Today's New York Times includes this article, "A Healthy Mix of Rest and Motion," which explains to the typical newspaper reader exactly what many runners have known for decades: interval training can dramatically improve endurance and cardiovascular fitness, and raise the body's potential to burn fat.
One thing that did surprise me a bit, though, was the fact that even volunteer subjects who were already quite fit still made significant gains in fitness when they added interval training to at least one workout a week.
The study didn't specify exactly how long or how hard the high-intensity interval should be, or make recommendations on how much time the rest interval should last, simply stating that "recovery periods should not last long enough for the pulse to return to its resting rate." One easy method of calculating intervals (which is working well for me) is the Daniels Running Formula -- but many other options exist. Googling the phrase "interval workout" brings up many, many free plans, any of which would help an exerciser to reap the benefits of interval training.
I truly hope that this newspaper article inspires at least one person to give interval training a try. There is such a large and growing obesity epidemic, not just in the United States but globally (as this report from the World Health Organization explains) -- and the variety inherent in an interval workout might make it a more appealing exercise option than mindlessly grinding away on a stationary bike or treadmill for an hour.
Here's hoping someone will be won over by the possibility of experiencing great fitness gains while also having some fun -- it will not only be good for that person, but for our society as a whole. See you on the trail!