Cardio Intervals Explained

Interval workouts are a staple in the training programmes of all competitive endurance athletes and there’s a reason for this.  Interval workouts are an incredibly effective way to boost performance and calorie burn.  But you don’t have to be a competitive athlete to benefit from interval workouts.

If you’re not a competitive athlete, or you’ve never done cardio intervals, don’t worry.  Yes, they are hard, but their format is easy to understand and you’ll reap plenty of benefits from doing them.


  1. A complete interval cycle is comprised of one hard (high intensity) interval, followed by one active recovery interval to give you time to recover before doing the next interval.
  2. In the high intensity effort you should be working all or almost all out and recovery is done at an easy low intensity.  But they are incredibly efficient, make other forms of exercise seem easy and can make you feel great after having done them.
  3. The intensity of workouts depends on the duration of the interval and recovery period.  The intensity of the hard interval should be done at the highest level you can sustain for the amount of intervals you are doing, plus one.
  4. Breaking your high intensity cardio exercise into short segments enables you to do more total exercise at high intensity without interruption until you become exhausted.  Inserting active recoveries between intervals enables you to recover enough to take on another hard interval while still keeping your metabolism high.
  5. Cardio Intervals are done by timing the intervals.  You can use a watch or a GPS watch with an interval timer on it to do the workout timings.

The 10 cardio intervals are detailed above, however here is what a Speed cardio interval workout with 4 reps would look like:

Speed: 5 min warm up, 4 x 30:30, 5 min cool down
5 minute warm up
30 seconds hard
30 seconds recovery
30 seconds hard
30 seconds recovery
30 seconds hard
30 seconds recovery
30 seconds hard
5 minute cool down
13:30 minutes in total 

Note: There’s no need to perform the final recovery after your last hard effort, go straight to the cool down instead.

If you haven’t done interval workouts before, they may take some getting used to.  In terms of effort level, you’ll know you’ve got it right if you complete the last interval at the same pace as the first one and are feeling like you could complete one (and only one) more.

As the weeks and phases go on, you’ll increase the duration and amount of time you spend doing intervals and they’ll start to become easier and enjoyable.

Go to the Super Lean Cardio Plan for more information on what your weekly Cardio Intervals will entail.  And you can print out weekly Super Lean Worksheets to take to the gym too.


For more links to do with Super Lean Cardio see here:

Super Lean 2: Cardio
10 Super Lean Cardio Workouts
Cardio Intervals Explained
Super Lean Cardio Plan

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