How to do cardio training the smart way!
I am all about doing things quickly and efficiently, and cardio training is no exception to this rule. Over the years, there have been many exercise experts that have proclaimed to know supposedly superior ways of stimulating fat loss, improving strength and improving cardiovascular endurance. Although there are many ways to accomplish these goals through exercise, there are some m
ethods that are more effective and more time efficient than others.
High intensity interval training has been proven to one of the best methods for increasing fat loss, increasing strength, and improving aerobic endurance. It is also much more time-efficient than steady state training. This means that instead of spending an hour using your treadmill, elliptical or other piece of cardio equipment, you can get a full blown effective workout done in as little as fifteen minutes.
So, what exactly is high intensity interval training? High intensity interval training, or HIIT, is an intense bout of activity, usually only lasting up to about a minute, followed by low intensity activity for a brief period of time. The duration of the workout, then, involves alternating between these periods of high intensity and low intensity. This creates a workout that is greater than the sum of its parts. Even though you will likely burn a similar number of calories during the workout compared to a steady state workout, you will burn far more after the workout. This is due to what is known in the exercise physiology world as EPOC, or “Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption.”
By working intensely for periods of time, you force your body to utilize glucose and oxygen more so than usual as fuel sources. After the workout, your body then has to replenish these glucose stores as well as deal with a higher demand for oxygen. Both of these processes need energy to be accomplished, that energy comes in the form of extra calories being burned. This effect can last hours, sometimes even days after the workout has been completed.
So, by now you probably have a pretty good idea of why doing some high intensity interval work is worth your time. You should also be aware that there are some contradictions to exercising in this manner. First of all, you should be aware that exercising more intensely does mean that there is a greater chance of injury compared to exercising at a lower intensity. However, this is greatly minimized when using a machine like the elliptical or stationary bike. Also, if your doctor has told you to avoid intense exercise or exercise that brings your heart rate up to a high level, than this is not the style of exercise for you. During a proper HIIT routine, you can expect your heart rate to often be close to your personal maximum.
A question that I get fairly often is, “How often should I be doing HIIT routines?” The answer to this question does vary from person to person, but it should be understood that this is something that should not be done everyday. By their very nature, these routines are intense. Therefore, there often needs to be more recovery time between sessions. Optimally, you should be doing 3 or 4 HIIT workouts a week, and maybe one steady state workout as well. The steady state workout would serve as a form of active recovery; you would still be working, but not as intensely as with the HIIT workout. Examples of a steady state workout that you would want to have in your routine once or twice a week could be things like hiking, light biking, or walking around town.
Another question you might be asking it, “Where should I be doing my HIIT workouts?” There are a bunch of different, yet equally correct answers to this question. Every time you do an exercise class (yoga being a notable exception) or a personal training session, you are most likely engaging in a form of HIIT. Both of these can be great for accomplishing all of the fitness goals I have previously listed. I have also put together an example of what a HIIT workout on an elliptical should be. Be sure to check that out as well!