I’ve never been a fan of cardio. It sucks. It makes my legs, lungs and brain hurt. But I do it because I don’t want to a) get fat or b) die of a cardiovascular disease of some sort. I’d much rather lift a heavy lump of iron than run anywhere. But I know it’s valuable. So what’s the best way to approach it? There are two options really. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Low Intensity Steady State (LISS). Which is better? That is something I’ve been experimenting with…
When I started my fitness journey with earnest (probably 4.5 years ago now) I thought you had to jog for hours on end to get the physique of your dreams. Then it slowly dawned on me that those who were good at distance running NEVER had the physique I was after. The current marathon world record holder, Dennis Kimetto is quite a stringy and lean. In comparison Usain Bolt, one of the fastest timed men on the planet, is muscular and ripped, he runs a lot, but short distances and as fast as he can. I know which I would rather look like. Though don’t get me wrong, Dennis is an astounding athlete in his own right! Mucho respeto!
L'actuel détenteur recordman du marathon DENNIS KIMETTO ( #kenya 🇰🇪🇳🇾🇦 ) 2:02:57 à #berlin en 2014 avec une moyenne de 2'55/km. – The current holder of the world record of marathon! – photo by @somosrunners – #marathon #runningman #record #denniskimetto #kenya #iten #running #mutai #runner #adidas #42km
Run fat boy, run!
About two years ago I started to introduce HIIT into my training programme. I’d run flat out for 30 seconds then rest for a minute and continue that for about 20 minutes. It’s tough. But it’s quick and the benefits are good. But I didn’t see the physical transformations I was after as quickly as all the HIIT connoisseurs would have you believe. So, I dialled in my nutrition and the results I was after came faster. I was leaner and more muscular. But still I wasn’t finding HIIT to be the godsend that it was espoused to be. Was it all a lie? Or was I not doing it correctly? I decided to experiment.
The Experiment: Slow and steady
After about 3 months of my HIIT program I decided to dial it back a notch and add in jogging (I don’t really run, at least the experts wouldn’t call it that) and distance walking (minimum of 45 minutes). After another 3 months I again saw similar results to that of my HIIT experiment. Good but not mind blowing. Plus the long sessions were not easy to add into my busy day. I was about to call it quits and just go back to the HIIT if for no other reason than I was getting the same results in less time. But then I read an article on T-Nation about combining the two. Genius!
Here’s a quote and summary from the article:
HIIT mobilizes fat so that it enters the bloodstream. Steady-state cardio makes sure that the fat is burned instead of returning where it came from. Do both in the same workout.
Combine HIIT and LISS in one workout for max results!
I’ve been combining HIIT and LISS now for about 2 months. I start with 16 minutes of sprints/rest and follow up with 20 – 60 minutes of steady state. The HIIT mobilises the fat so it’s easily available in my bloodstream. The LISS then uses that as fuel for my less intense section of the workout. I’ve seen my body fat drop 2% in the last month by changing nothing but the way I approach my cardio days.
But even after all that, there are those who would argue that cardio is not necessary at all for building a great physique. I disagree. I think everyone could benefit from cardio of some description. If not for aesthetic goals, then for the fact that it will help keep your cardiovascular health in good working order, which in turn will keep you healthier and actively alive longer so you can live a more fulfilling life!