What type of cardio you should do, what time of the day and how much of it is a very interesting topic. Like most other things in the fitness industry, most experts seem to know right. Except no one of the experts agree with each other, so we are all left wondering what we should do. I saw a documentary on TV the other night about genetics and how not all of us respond equally to different types of cardio. They claimed 20 second intervals of hard cardio is all you need. Much like the Tabata method where 8 x 20 seconds with 10 seconds rest is the ultimate (that used to be known as Guerilla Training, what happend to that? Or maybe that was the Norwegian term?). Tabata training claims to be the best on stubborn stomach fat. Just 4 minutes of highly intensive exercise (and when I say intensive, I mean intensive. You shouldn’t be able to go any harder at all) a few times a week is the secret to success.
Others swear to low intensity, but over a very long duration. I’m sure you’ve heard that the higher intensity you work at, the less the percentage of fat you are burning. Therefore high intensity training burns carbs (glucose in your muscles and bloodstream) and low intensity burns fat, so you should be keeping it low. But then again, if you’re keeping it low, you won’t burn nearly as much as when you work at a higher intensity, so all in all, wouldn’t the actual fat you’ve burnt just equal out? Oh well, at least the benefit with low intensity is that absolutely everyone can manage, it’s very low risk and no matter how long it has been since you did any exercise, you can still go for a brisk walk (brisk for me might not be the same as brisk for you, just keep that in mind).
Other types of interval training are also very popular, such as the 4×4 (that has been misinterpreted by international media into just 4). 4×4 means 4 minutes as hard as you can, then rest for as long as you need and repeat 4 times (international media figured 4 minutes once was more than enough – everything for a good cover story, right?). So it’s 16 minutes of hard work, but with warm up, rest in between and cool down, this is easily a 30 minute workout. And I tell you what; 4 minutes of ‘as hard as you can’ is hard work. This way of doing intervals was a research project in a university in Trondheim, and they claim this is the ultimate type of interval training for fat loss and lowering the risk of heart disease.
You can also do aerobic interval training where you never actually push yourself so hard that you get out of breath. You simply go from low intensity to moderate intensity and then back down again. This can be done in longer intervals than the super high intensity (because you should be very able to keep up a moderate intensity workout for a moderate amount of time), so you could do 10 minutes moderate and 2 minutes low or something along those lines. You can do that, can’t you?
Fartlek (I love Scandinavian words that’s been adopted to English such as Ombudsman and Smorgasbord. And Fartlek of course) is one of my favourites. I like Fartlek because I am easily bored so I need to constantly entertain myself. What Fartlek really means is Speed Play (makes a little more sense in English then, doesn’t it?), so you mix it up and play with different speeds. Like last night I did a 6km run. But I didn’t just run at a steady pace the whole time, I started with a warm up at about 8km per hour, then turned it up and alternated between 10-12km per hour. Then I did some high intensity intervals up to 18km per hour with rest at 6-8km per hour. Don’t remember how many of those I did, but around 6 maybe? Afterwards I took it back down to 10-12km per hour to finish. Great workout and time was really flying, because I kept changing things up. If you’re lucky and live close to a hilly terrain, Fartlek is perfect for outdoor running. Play with the environment and keep it interesting.
Circuit training (we all did that in school, didn’t we?) is a combination of weights and cardio. Or, I guess it doesn’t have to be weights, but you use your muscles a lot more and in other ways than when just doing plain cardio (when you think of it, most types of cardio only works your legs; cycling, running, stepper etc). I have posted a couple of ideas for circuits earlier (find them here, here and here) and the whole idea behind them is working on cardio and strength at the same time. And they are a lot more entertaining then running for an hour or sitting on your spin bike watching time go by. You can basically do whatever you want in a circuit, pushups, sit-ups, running on the spot, jumping jacks, dips, squats, lunges – you name it. And no, you don’t have to do Burpees just because every Bootcamp instructor in history made you do it in every session while wearing an evil smile on his face.
So, what’s the best cardio for you? If you’re training for a marathon, I suggest running. If you’re trying to lose weight, I suggest you walk laps of the kitchen while you work out what to eat (because you don’t really need to exercise to lose weight, 80% (at least) of your weight loss results will come from what you put in your mouth) for dinner. If you’re planning on doing a hike in New Zealand, walking the 1000 steps (or similar in your neighbourhood – Stoltzekleiven in Bergen perhaps?) every day you can. If you’re trying to change your lifestyle into a more active and healthy lifestyle, I recommend finding something you enjoy. If that’s ballroom dancing or doing triathlons, then do that. If you love running around with the kids, playing Follow The Leader – guess what, that is cardio too. And it counts for something. Because everything is better than nothing and if you do Something Every Day it all adds up in the long run.
What’s your cardio planned for today? No excuses, because everything counts into Something Every Day! Have fun 🙂