Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Effective and Efficient Cardio

Everyone needs to get cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis. It can be tough to fit one more thing into our schedules. The CDC  recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. The amount of time needed to meet our cardiovascular exercise needs is directly correlated to the intensity of the exercise. Intensity matters! If you work hard, you can get your weekly cardio done in half the time. If the thought of spending less time and getting the same or better results sounds appealing to you, you need to know about HIIT.

I Heart HIIT

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. You alternate intense exercise with intervals of recovery/rest. The key is to work VERY hard during the intense intervals. You want to work at 90-95 % of your maximum. You want to be breathless and unable to talk. During the periods of recovery or rest you either slow way down to about 50% of your max or completely rest. You need to be able to get your breathing under control and say a few words.

A HIIT workout really never needs to be longer than 30 minutes. I get great workouts in 20 minutes. Always start with a 2-5 minute warm-up. Perform 3-10 intense intervals with a period of recovery after each intense interval. End your workout with a 2-5 minute cool down.

There are many variations of HIIT. You can alternate 30 seconds of intense work with 30 seconds of recovery. You can work hard for 1 minute and recover for 2 minutes. You can do a pyramid (30 seconds intense/30 seconds recovery, 60 seconds intense/60 seconds recovery, 90 seconds intense/90 seconds recovery and then work back down). My favorite form of intervals is called Tabatas. You do 20 second intervals with a 10 second rest period for 8 cycles.

This article by Rachel Cosgrove does such an awesome job explaining HIIT. She gives some of the science behind this form of cardio training and why it is so effective. She compares steady state cardio (for example 45 minutes of running) with HIIT. I was a believer in interval training before I read the article, but this sealed the deal for me.

I will be posting some HIIT workouts that can be done in your living room. Abe and I do these workouts often when we don’t have time to get to the gym. We are always a sweaty mess and so glad to be done!

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