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Published on September 11, 2020

7 Interval Training Exercises Best for Beginners

7 Interval Training Exercises Best for Beginners

If you’re new to exercise, you’ve probably heard about interval training (HIIT), a method of training that has you pushing out of your comfort zone for a certain period of time and then recovering.

What’s great about interval training is that there are a variety of ways to do it. More advanced exercisers can work at a very high intensity, but you can also get a big bang-for-buck with simple exercises suitable for all fitness levels.

The reason interval training is so popular is that working at higher levels of intensity helps you build endurance more quickly and it helps you burn more calories, which is great for weight loss.

Not only that, but it makes your workout more interesting. Instead of going at the same pace for the entire workout, you mix things up which can make the workout seem shorter than it really is.

Beginner Interval Training

You may be wondering whether you can do interval training if you’re not a veteran exerciser, and the answer is yes. Beginners can get a lot out of interval training.

Not only can you switch up your workouts, making them a little more fun, but you also give your body a chance to get used to working just a little harder and build some character—something mostly needed in these times of uncertainty.

The upshot is, you only work hard for a very short period of time, making it a more comfortable workout. That’s much better than slogging through a long workout (who’s got time for that) or, on the other hand, trying to work at a high intensity for the length of your workout, passing out halfway through.

Interval Workout

The following exercises are a great place to start if you’re a beginner. The following 7 exercises, pasted together, make a 21-minute long workout and include work intervals that will push you just a bit out of your comfort zone.

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That means you won’t be breathless or miserable. You will simply be pushing yourself just a bit—the perfect way to build a strong cardio foundation for getting healthy and losing weight.

The workout is totally bodyweight and only needs a chair or a couch, so there’s really no excuse not to get it done.

Perform as many repetitions as you can for each exercise in the proposed order over 30”, rest sitting or laying on the floor for 60”, and repeat with the following exercise.

HIIT workout depending on how good you feel at the end of round 2.

7 Exercise Selections

Here are the 7 beginner interval training exercises you can try.

1. Jumping Jacks

That’s right. This old-school warm-up is an effective form of cardio. The primary benefit of doing jumping jacks is that it elevates your heart rate. You breathe more deeply while jumping, which delivers oxygen to your bloodstream and ultimately to your muscles.

In addition, you will also shake your lymphatic system and burn fat at a rapid rate, promoting weight loss.[1]

2. Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers might win the award for most travel-friendly interval training exercise because they require no equipment and take up hardly any space. On the flip side, they also deserve some recognition for being super challenging.

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The MC works the core, hip flexors, arms, shoulders, and lower back—literally a full-body movement. Make sure you don’t overarch your back and maintain enough space between your hands and feet to have your trunk parallel to the ground.

3. Squats

 

Basic yet effective, squats remain the king of bodyweight exercises when it comes to improving mobility and strength.

Make sure to keep your head up, chest nicely open at all times, and feet firmly pressed through the heels on the ground. Ideally, your glutes should go below your knees during the descending phase. But don’t worry if you can’t get so low just yet, it will improve with practice.

4. Push-Ups

Push-ups are a total body exercise that is easily modified and can be made to be very challenging, from the total beginner to the most avid exerciser.

To make pushups easier, elevate your hands on a bench, couch, counter-top, or against a wall.

To make push-ups more difficult, elevate your feet. The higher the angle (with your hands on the ground), the more of your bodyweight you support. Also, you can increase the range of motion by elevating your hands on books, push up handles, or something similar.

Aim to nearly touching the ground with your chest first, keeping your head high and chin tucked. This will avoid straining your neck and improve arms and chest muscle engagement.

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5. Backward/Reverse Lunges

 

This modified version of the classic lunge simply involves taking a big step backward, balancing on your front foot.

This interval training exercise increases the engagement of the hamstrings and glutes muscles (back of the leg) versus the quads muscles (front of the thigh). This is especially useful for people with a sitting job because the back-leg muscles become stiff and weak due to the constant sitting and need to be “reactivated”.

This exercise requires balance, so it’s best performed with a mat in between your feet or over a carpet to avoid hitting your knee on the floor too violently.

As a beginner, you should always touch the ground with your back knee and pause for a second to avoid straining a muscle or a tendon. Pausing for a second will help you avoid using momentum and engage the correct muscles during the ascension phase of the exercise.

6. Elevated Hip Thrust

The hip thrust is another move useful to target dormant muscles like glutes and hamstrings. To perform this exercise, you only need a chair or a couch.

Lie face-up on the floor with your knees bent and your feet on a bench or box. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees, then slowly lower to the starting position.

If this feels too easy, you can try to hold the tension for 2″ at the top of the movement, aggressively squeezing your glutes against each other. Imagine you have a pencil stuck in between your buttocks and you want to crack it in two (not a pretty picture I know, but it givers you the idea).

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7. Burpees

We put this at the end since it’s the hardest one of all. No cardio and interval training compilation would be complete without burpees. They challenge every part of your body and send your heart rate soaring in no time. All this adds up to an exercise that burns about 10 calories per minute.[2]

Assuming you’re doing between 10 and 20 repetitions every minute, this is one of the best fat burning exercises out there. You can torch even more calories by upping the pace. Just make sure you don’t let your form suffer!

If normal burpees give you pain in the lower back or they’re simply too hard (you can’t do more than 3 in a 30″ interval), just skip them all at once and come back to them when your fitness is improved.

Final Thoughts

Interval training is a great way to maintain fitness during these trying times. One of the best parts about it is that you can set your own pace and speed of progress.

Practice this routine a few times per week, focusing firstly on form and secondly, on speed. Burning a few extra calories from doing 2 more reps won’t be very useful if you pull a muscle and have to take a few weeks off exercise.

More Exercise Routines for Beginners

Featured photo credit: Ayo Ogunseinde via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Davide Alfonsi

Online Weight Loss And Exercise Specialist

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Last Updated on November 12, 2020

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (and What to Do About It)

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (and What to Do About It)

If you find that you’re feeling tired all the time, it’s important to understand that it’s a common problem for many. With all of the demands of daily life, being tired seems to be the new baseline. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

If you’re tired of feeling exhausted, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re so tired and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

What Happens When You’re Too Tired

If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

  • Trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired.
  • Experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not.
  • Dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
  • Finding it more difficult to exercise.
  • Immune system may weaken, causing you to pick up infections more easily.
  • Overeating because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids, even when you’re not hungry.
  • Metabolism slows down, so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

Why Are You Feeling Tired All the Time?

Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Here’s a quick overview of each common cause of fatigue and feeling tired all of the time:

  1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep, restorative sleep.
  2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness, which could be triggered by numerous health problems, such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea, or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
  3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance, or emotional trauma. It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

You can learn more about some causes of fatigue in this video:

Feeling Tired Vs Being Fatigued

If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

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Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep. However, fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety, or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive[5].

Symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low stamina
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Low motivation

These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness, but they usually last longer and are more intense.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. However, there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation, which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

Research suggests that most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night[6]. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

Get the right amount of sleep to stop feeling tired.

    The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

    Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

    Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[7]

    If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is the most likely reason you feel tired all the time. That is actually good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

    It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities, such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

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    4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

    Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

    1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
    2. Exercising regularly
    3. Using stressbusters
    4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

    After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

    I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

    Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

    • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy, including getting enough sleep.
    • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of physical activity a day, ideally for six days a week.
    • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
    • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

    The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight, and to achieve overall wellness.[8]

    Living Healthy

    Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested, and better overall.

    In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger. In fact, long-term sleep deprivation has been linked to an increase in Alzheimer’s later in life[9].

    As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

    Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

    1. Unplug

    Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. However, tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime. This won’t help you stop feeling tired all the time.

    Try to turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

    2. Unwind

    Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating, or taking an Epsom salt bath.

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    3. Get Comfortable

    Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

    Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep. Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

    Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed. If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[10]

    This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

    Exercise

    Many people know that exercise is good for them, but they just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

    That’s what happened in my case, but when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my sedentary lifestyle.

    I decided to start swimming because it was something I had always loved to do. Find an exercise you love and stick to it to stop feeling tired all the time. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training, and flexibility training during your daily 20-minute workout.

    If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try as it will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

    Attitude

    Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

    When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted, but there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued: Breathing.

    But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” (or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

    Here’s how you do Long-Exhale Breathing:

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    1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy.
    2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air).
    3. Hold your breath while you mentally count to 7 and enjoy the stillness.
    4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it).
    5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep breath.
    6. Repeat 3 times, ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system.

    This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

    When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[11]

    Nutrition

    Diet is vital for beating fatigue if you’re feeling tired all the time – after all, food is your main source of energy.

    If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels, which may lead to daytime sleepiness.

    Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming though. For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

    Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

    1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
    2. Add a healthy fat or protein to any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed.
    3. Fill up with fiber, especially green leafy vegetables.
    4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice, and corn.
    5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars, and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
    6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives.
    7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive, and nut oils.
    8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts.
    9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice.

    Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron, and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

    That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

    Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multivitamin or specific supplement.

    The Bottom Line

    If you are tired of feeling tired all the time, then there is tremendous hope.

    If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices. If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes discussed above.

    Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

    More Tips to Stop Feeling Tired All the Time

    Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
    [2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
    [3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
    [4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
    [5] Very Well Health: Differences Between Sleepiness and Fatigue
    [6] Advanced Sleep Medicine Services: NEW Guidelines: How much sleep do you need?
    [7] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
    [8] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
    [9] National Institute on Aging: Sleep loss encourages spread of toxic Alzheimer’s protein
    [10] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
    [11] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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