Every weekday, your alarm clock sounds at 5 a.m. You make your perfect smoothie, slip on your perfect running shoe, and by 5:30, your off to the gym. You’ve been hard at work with your perfect workouts, your perfect diet, and your picture perfect goals in mind for a month now, so why do you feel your goals are not so perfect? The answer may be your cardio.
No matter what you’ve trained for in your past, almost always the word “cardio” has been a puzzle. Whether you hate it, love it, or just get it done; cardio can haunt any athlete mentally or physically, if you’re not lining up the perfect cardio style to your goals. When I began in this industry, I didn’t know much, but one philosophy that always made sense was the more cardio I did, the more weight I’d lose. Right? Umm absolutely not. I was slaving away with 40 minute treadmill sessions, 5 days a week, to only see a scale that wasn’t budging, a physique that wasn’t changing, and most of all; mental sanity quickly closing with one step on a treadmill. With a little research and experimentation, HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training entered my training schedule and my mind or body never looked back! Steady- state cardio workouts are a simple, widely used style of cardiovascular health. Steady state is performing your activity at a steady, manageable state for 20 minutes or more. HIIT cardio are slightly complex activity, where you challenge yourself to perform at an intensity level of max effort for a brief period, followed by a set time of moderate recovery, and then performed again. Most HIIT cardio ranges from 10-20 minutes of activity
Not sold on HIIT cardio? Here’s some pros and cons to HIIT:
HIIT is largely proven to be more effective for fat loss.
Unless you’re training for a long distance sport, short, burst cardio like HIIT can be highly more effective tool for fat loss. Researchers believe it’s due to the fact that your metabolism remains elevated for hours after a shorter, more intense style or cardiac activity. HIIT is far more time efficient.
Anyone who says you can do anything for a minute, has obviously never been on a stairmaster. Slaving away for a 40 minute plus cardio workout, may find most people not only frustrated with the time spent in the gym, but can lead to lower intensity throughout the workout. HIIT can be taken anywhere.
This is a personal reason I love interval cardio. I’m no longer stuck to a cardio machine or running trail, the HIIT method can be applied to any exercise: stairs, sprinting, body weight moves; basically anything than can be performed with heart rate and varied intensity, not just space. HIIT is considered anaerobic cardio.
Steady state cardio are aerobic or to break it down, requires oxygen and is fueled mostly by stored fat. HIIT cardio doesn’t rely exclusively on oxygen, and is dominantly fueled by carbohydrates. With that being said, faster, more anaerobic cardio will prove to build more muscle, strength, and power than steady state cardio, which can also help in other areas of strength training programs. HIIT cardio takes some thought; and effort.
I know I’ve mentioned some of the pros to HIIT cardio vs. steady state cardio; there is still some downside to the switch. HIIT cardio is exactly what it says in its name: intense! So you no longer have the cardio sessions of reading, relaxing, and just logging some miles; HIIT requires heart rate, body heat, and effort; lots of it! HIIT cardio may be a style of cardio that some participants may have to work up too in minutes, when switching from a typical steady state cardio. Now that you’ve heard some pros and cons to HIIT cardio; don’t go all in, just yet….. My philosophy is that the best system of cardiovascular training is a blend of both higher and lower intensity styles of training that fit your goals for the time. To make it simple? Are you trying to build muscle mass and remain with lean body fat? HIIT is your go too. If you’re trying to train for endurance or improved distance and cardiovascular health? Steady state may be for you.
Both styles of training have benefits, so don’t neglect just one, but challenge yourself to explore a variety of cardio to keep your body and endurance constantly guessing. Trying to excel at both styles at the same time can be a mistake, so focus on what style meets your goals at the time. Whether you’re making the switch or sticking to the miles on the treadmill; any form of cardiovascular training will be beneficial to you and your training goals.