Get excited about your aquatic training program. Add some enthusiasm and effort. See some dramatic results. It’s all possible using a method called interval training.

Interval training simply means a workout that combines high-intensity portions with moderate- or low-intensity segments.

Athletes use it. During continuous aerobic training the program is organized so the workout intensity begins at the low end of the target zone and gradually increases to moderate and high intensity before tapering back down to the low end.

Interval training is different in that it is based on short bouts of intense exercise during which the workout intensity is at the top end and often into the anaerobic zone. These high-intensity bouts are separated by recovery periods during which the workout intensity is low to moderate intensity.

This technique, usually reserved for well-conditioned athletes, trains us to maintain near-maximum heart rate (all-out effort) for a longer total time than would be possible with continuous training. Use it to enhance fitness training regimens.

An interval training workout begins with a normal thermal and cardiorespiratory warm-up period followed by about three minutes of aerobics at a moderate intensity. That’s followed by approximately one minute of all-out effort before returning to moderate or low intensity for three more minutes. Six to nine cycles usually are completed during the aerobics part of the program before cooling down and stretching.

“Cycle” means the combination of one low- and one high-intensity set. The low to moderate-intensity portion is called the “recovery” period. The high-intensity part of the cycle is called “work” and pushes you to all-out effort. The “work-to-recovery ratio” means how long the high-intensity (work) lasts in comparison with the moderate- or low-(recovery) intensity.

While 1 to 3 is the most common work-to-recovery ratio for beginning programs, the very fit may try a 1 to 2 ratio (30 seconds work to 60 seconds recovery, 45 seconds work to 90 seconds recovery, or 60 seconds to 120 seconds; or any 1:2 mix. Professional and Olympic athletes reverse this and use a 3 to 1 work-to-recovery ratio.

The most important thing is to be comfortable with the ratio and times chosen. Clients should be able to completely recover during the recovery part of the cycle.

Here’s an example of a vertical aquatic exercise cycle. Jumping Jack Jumps with all-out effort for one minute. Jumping Jacks with moderate effort for three minutes. That’s one cycle. Repeating it three times would be three cycles.

The cycle doesn’t have to be 1 minute to 3 minute segments. Any mix that feels challenging is fine. Most interval training programs use a 1 to 3 work-to-recovery ratio. This can mean 60 seconds of high intensity followed by 3 minutes of low, such as the other example — or 30 seconds work followed by 1 ½ minutes recovery, or any 1 to 3 ratio time segment that feels best.

Midriff-depth water seems ideal for shallow water. The dive well works fine, too. Water temperature between 80 and 82 is best for interval training. The workout may be too exertive for adequate heat dissipation to occur if the temperature is higher than 86.

There are three common errors seen in aquatic interval training. Using movements that are too quick for safe implementation, using the same muscle groups repeatedly, and allowing improper alignment.

Be aware that increasing the speed of the movements might elevate the heart rate and perceived exertion level, but may compromise the joints and connective tissues. Keep the exercises at a moderate speed and increase intensity by increasing the range of motion (making moves bigger), increasing elevation (jumping higher), and using more muscle force (putting power in each move). Moving through the water also will increase the energy requirements.

Because it’s easiest to overload the system by using the large muscles in the body (the hamstrings, gluteals and quadriceps), it’s easy to forget to use the others. Unable to think of a way to use adductors and

abductors for the high-intensity portion? Think about using them during the recovery time or in the warm-up or cooldown.

Proper alignment and good exercise control are essential to a safe program. Most exercisers are very cautious about those factors. For some reason, exercisers ignore common sense and fitness knowledge during all-out effort. Clients think that if they’re working hard like athletes, they can ignore good alignment.

Good alignment and pelvic stabilization are even more essential during the peak effort segments of class.

Interval training moves can be incorporated into any aquatic exercise program. They can add variety, interest, renewed enthusiasm and excitement. Experiment with setting aside 10 minutes for intervals during your next workout. You’ll love the challenge!