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Cardio: "I am not the devil!"

March 20, 2015

 

I know, I know, I can feel you rolling your eyes already. “Cardio?!”.  And I also reckon you thought this was just going to be me harping on about going for long runs, well, its not. Well, not all of it...

 

Fit Fam, I’m here to tell you that cardio, in whatever form it may come in is essential to:

  • Improve performance

  • Better you body composition

  • Improve cardiovascular function

  • Have a more restful sleep

  • Reduce stress and anxiety

Cardiovascular exercise is not commonly found in two different ways, that’s either through HIIT or LISS. What are these? Well, you should be by now very familiar with both; HIIT being High Intensity Interval Training, which is what you see every Monday and Friday here at the Fit Shop. LISS is Low Intensity Steady state exercise, which is frowned upon by gym rats, but an essential for those looking to improve athletic performance and reap many of those benefits listed above. So what do they do?

 

HIIT

HIIT is a training idea in which low to moderate intensity intervals are alternated with high intensity intervals.

 

HIIT is considered by some to be much more effective than normal cardio because the intensity is higher and you are able to increase both your aerobic and anaerobic endurance while burning more fat than ever before.

 

"In research, HIIT has been shown to burn adipose (fat) tissue more effectively than low-intensity exercise - up to 50% more efficiently." (www.musclemedia.com)

 

However, it should be noted that the balance between the two systems is in favour of the anaerobic energy system, and whilst that is great if you are prone to short sharp bursts of activity, many of us rely on our aerobic capacity to continue with our daily lives and hobbies.

 

LISS

Low intensity steady state cardio is what many of us will immediately think of us as going for a jog, or a gentle bike ride or swim, which is exactly what it is. They are many benefits for continuing with this type of training even though you participate in HIIT.

 

HIIT training brings an intensity to your training that starves your body of oxygen (anaerobic) and ensures that it burns fuel for longer post-exercise. LISS meanwhile works within the aerobic (with Oxygen) system, and though it takes a while to start up (2minutes +) it becomes very efficient when it works. This efficiency can lead to improved recovery time, reduced stress levels, better sleep and a reduction in heart rate.

 

So what am I trying to say?

 

Ok, this is may where I encourage you to go outdoors…


HIIT training is an outstanding tool for:

  • Losing body fat (while retaining lean body mass)

  • Strengthening the cardiovascular system

  • Developing sport-specific energy systems

  • Developing “work capacity” (i.e. the ability to tolerate a high level of intensity for a longer period)

  • Improving fat and carbohydrate oxidation in skeletal muscle

  • Developing “mental toughness”

  • Challenging the fast twitch muscle fibres (precisionnutrition.com)

But steady state cardio can do all of these things too (maybe not the fast twitch fibres as much!). No one is asking you to enter a marathon or run up a mountain, but if you want to improve your recovery times within a HIIT session, go for those long mountainous walks on holiday, sleep better, give your body a good chance to recover whilst still exercising or escape the office for 30 minutes, steady state is still a great weapon to have in your armoury. You never know, you might enjoy it!

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