For years I counted the minutes of cardio I did per week and recorded them in an exercise diary. If I wasn’t satisfied with the random number I thought was inducing fat loss, I considered that week a failure. This was in line with weighing myself daily and making my happiness that day be reflective of my weight.
I though I had found the fountain of leanness, JUST DO MORE fasted cardio, and JUST GET ON THE SCALE everyday.
I knew I had to resistance train, and so I reluctantly trained upper body only on Thursdays. Because, ya know…I had to save my legs for 60 to 90 minutes of daily cardio! Even on vacation, I remember making my husband wait to go to the beach until I ran for 70 minutes on a treadmill. Ugh, I am sorry honey!
I was chronically late, haggard and exhausted. Every day I needed to shampoo and blow out my hair. Looking back it was such a time hog and mental drain!
By the time fitness and hygiene were done for the day, I practically needed a nap. Throw in family responsibilities like car pool, laundry and grocery shopping, and I did almost nothing else. I did not know of any other way to be fit; yet I wasn’t. Worse yet, when I became frustrated for lack of time, I ate more and of course that meant more cardio, especially fasted. I once ran 10 miles fasted, because I thought that was going to get me ahead. Geez, I am tired just thinking about those old days. I somehow thought I was getting ahead, yet the cellulite never left my thighs.
We all know to change we need to make a change of behavior, and I got fed up enough make a change. I set out to learn as much as I could, and subsequently renewed my inspiration. What happened next was the inspiration for Kick It Up Personal Training, my first fitness business. If other women were slaves to long sessions of cardio without improvement, then sharing my experience could help them get fit in less time.
Cardio IS an important piece of the leanness puzzle, yet it need not take over our life. Unless you are an endurance athlete, or you enjoy long walks every day for hours, it is not necessary to do hours of cardio. Nor is it necessary to do fasted cardio unless it fits your schedule, or you become nauseated on a full stomach.
The most important factor for maximal calorie burn, in cardio is intensity. An effective way to accomplish this is with high intensity intervals followed by a brief recovery repeated for the duration of the workout. (High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT)
It is well documented that HIIT sessions push a body into recovery mode. The benefits of this are an amazing post exercise calorie burn. Long steady moderate cardio sessions do not have this effect.
There are numerous ways to perform a HIIT workout, but the common denominator is to execute maximal effort intervals followed by adequate recovery for 6-10 cycles with a thorough warm up and cool down. Maximal effort means that you hate it and dread it but it is over in 20-25 seconds. If you can sustain it for longer than 25 seconds, then it clearly is not maximal effort. The recovery needs to be long enough for you to perform at that maximum level each and every interval. The time can vary depending on your conditioning, but a good starting pint is 100 seconds recovery for every 20-second interval.
HIIT is not only more effective than long steady cardio, it requires only a fraction of the time. Nobody wants to waste time and get mediocre results.
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Here is my favorite love/hate Plyometric HIIT move: Tuck Jumps.