Let’s talk HIIT cardio.
That stands for High Intensity Interval Training. Basically what it does is it allows you to push yourself to a level you don’t normally get to while doing steady state cardio. You know steady state cardio. You see it every day at the gym. Folks running and walking at the same pace for an endless amount of time. If you really watch them and that is all they do then you might even notice that their bodies don’t change very much over time.
Why is that?
Our bodies are very adaptable. I’m sure you have realized this. The only thing we can’t adapt to is lack of water. Dehydration. Our bodies even rock at adapting to lack of food. Enter starvation mode. But those are entirely different posts for another time.
Think about it. We exercise. Whether it is doing cardio or resistance training we apply some type of stress to our bodies. At first it is really challenging but then we notice after a few weeks it gets much easier. We don’t breathe as heavy, we don’t sweat as much, and our muscles don’t fatigue like they did in the beginning. Our bodies adapt.
What happens when our bodies adapt?
You guessed it! The dreaded PLATEAU! Everyone knows what I’m talking about. You hear people say how they have tried EVERYTHING but they just aren’t seeing results. Of course you know nutrition is 80% of that. There I go sneaking in another blog post.
So… the plateau. Our bodies adapt to the stresses we put on it and it STOPS CHANGING. What can we do to prevent this from happening? We can stop doing steady state cardio, for one.
Enter HIIT cardio.
High Intensity Interval Training during your workouts can help prevent that dreaded plateau by keeping your body guessing. You keep pushing yourself to a new level during each workout. Your body never gets a change to fully adapt so it will keep changing.
Come on… everyone is doing it!
So how do you do it?
You can follow some basic guidelines. Let me try to keep this as simple as possible. When I have my clients do this I teach them that they have 2 basic levels that they work at. High intensity and recovery.
High intensity is the point in your workout where it gets really challenging. You might notice it gets a little more difficult to breath than during a regular steady state cardio session. Now this level varies for everyone. It depends on a lot of things. How in shape you are. How active you are. Do you have any existing medical conditions you need to work around? The list can go on forever. So basically you want to hit a level where it is difficult to breath. You don’t want to get lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous. You want to have complete control of your body. And, goodness, if you ever don’t feel well then DON’T DO IT. But this definitely isn’t “walk in the park cardio”. It should definitely feel uncomfortable. You are pushing past your comfort zone, remember? When you get out of breath you begin to reach your anaerobic threshold… anaerobic being ‘without oxygen’. You are pushing your body to a level it is not used to. It has not adapted yet so it’s struggling. You maintain this level as long as you can and then you slow it down and enter recovery mode.
Recovery mode is just that. You take the resistance or speed down to a point where your body can recover. You’re muscles aren’t working as hard, there is more oxygen available, and your heart slows down a little. You want to stay at your recovery level until you have just about caught your breath. Again, still not walking in the park. Still sweating and breathing at a higher rate than normal. But recovered enough to go into your next high intensity level for the given period of time. This is the level where you should be able to maintain a conversation at least half of the time.
OK, so now you have an idea of what you should feel like during the high intensity interval and the recovery interval. So now let’s put this all together. To keep things simple you can start aiming for a high level for 1 minute and a recovery level for 1 minute. Work those up and down for a total of 20 minutes. 10 high intensity intervals plus 10 recovery intervals gives you 20 working minutes of HIIT cardio. Add in a 5 minute warmup and a 5 minute cooldown and you have 30 minutes of intense cardio that with blow your ability to burn fat out of the water.
Now here is the reality.
If you are doing this right then you should not be able to sustain 1 minute high and 1 minute recovery for more than 3 or 4 rounds.
What do you do then?
You listen to your body. You will get used to me saying this. This isn’t cardio where you tune out and watch TV. This is cardio where you are paying attention to what your body is doing and what it is telling you. You will also find that it goes pretty fast when you are actually paying attention and changing things up so often.
So here is what you do. You start your first high intensity interval and aim for maintaining that level for 1 minute. You get out of breath. You push past your comfort level while maintaining control and you try to hit 1 minute. After that minute you slow it down and catch your breath. Rinse and repeat for another round or two.
How are you feeling? Are you noticing that the next few rounds are getting harder and harder to maintain that level for the entire minute? Are you noticing that your breathing is not recovering as much during your recovery interval?
You adjust. Maybe your high intensity interval turns into 45 seconds instead of a minute. Maybe your recovery interval is 90 seconds instead of just 60. You might notice these numbers change more and more over the entire 20 minutes you set aside for your active HIIT time. Maybe you can only do 4 sets of intervals instead of 10. But you did 4 and that is a great start!
Yes, it’s a start. You have to start somewhere. So now each time you do HIIT cardio sessions you try to do just a little better. And if you are doing this right then you will.
Why? Because your body is very adaptable to the stresses you put on it and it will learn to push harder and recover faster. This is an increase in your strength and endurance. Your body working as a whole to improve its level of fitness. 30 days into this program it will dawn on you that you just completed 20 working minutes of HIIT cardio and you even managed to increase your speed, resistance, or incline
(depending on your choice of cardio). You might even notice you are now enjoying what you dreaded in the beginning. You may also find yourself with a loathing of steady state cardio. What’s that anyway? A thing of the past, you say?
So here it is. My HIIT cardio program. For you. For FREE. Just for coming to visit me on my blog.
It’s a basic program but can be adapted for any type of cardio that you do. This program will work great for you if you are participating in my 30 Day Fat Loss Challenge. Make sure you stick around because I will be giving specific examples of how to adjust the program for different types of exercise. In the gym. At home. Using machines or just your body.
Just remember this is all based on your level. If you have been really sedentary then walking slow and walking a bit faster might be your intervals. If you are an athlete then running at your moderate pace with incline sprints thrown in might work for you. That’s the beauty of this program. It is very adaptable to wherever you are in your fitness journey.
So get out there and learn to push yourself. Start changing your body today!
Always remember to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise or nutrition program! Enjoy!