If you aren't familiar with that term, basically a "cardio junkie" is a person-many times those who are new to their fitness journey, or someone such as a pro-runner or cyclist- who's workout routine consists solely or mostly of cardio.
I much rather spend time getting my heart rate up lifting weights than doing cardio, and some studies have actually shown that cardio is not needed in order to loose weight. However, I still find it useful to engage in cardiovascular activity for other reasons:
It works up a good sweat,
Helps release feel good hormones called endorphins,
Conditions your body (and mind, in some aspects!)
And yes, in some forms, helps to burn fat.
From the research I have done, and from a personal perspective, the most efficient form of cardio for overall body conditioning and fat loss is that of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).
What is HIIT?
HIIT is basically training in "intervals": periods of intense, heart pounding work (such as sprinting, jumping, basically just going all out) that are done with all the effort you have, followed by shorter rounds of less vigorous active rest.
This differs greatly from the traditional "steady state" cardio, in which you remain at a relatively consistent heart rate for long periods of time (30+ minutes). Usually, HIIT only takes about 10-30 minutes at most, and is not done daily. However, results are quickly seen, and the benefits are undeniable.
Why Does HIIT work better than other cardio?
Steady state cardio usually keeps the heart rate at a constant... with HIIT, the heart rate will be much higher during the all-out bursts, than will lower slightly during the active recovery. This allows you to work at a more intense pace for longer bouts of time than steady state would allow.
HIIT also causes a reaction known as EPOC (post-exercise oxygen consumption), also known as the "afterburn" effect.
As described by precisionnutrition.com:
"When you work at a lower intensity (such as during a brisk walk), aerobic metabolism predominates.
Your body uses oxygen to break down carbohydrate and fat for energy. This is very efficient, but you can’t work at top speed. With aerobic metabolism, you gain efficiency but lose intensity...
On the other hand, when you work at a higher intensity (such as sprinting),anaerobic metabolism predominates.
Your body can’t get oxygen to where it needs to go fast enough. This is very inefficient, but it lets you produce short bursts of speed or high energy.
· The higher intensity periods create a metabolic demand that is very effective for long-term fat loss and overall conditioning.
· The lower intensity periods let you recover and use the aerobic energy system."
This after burn can increase metabolism and cause more calorie burn for up to 24 hours after your workout! Steady state cardio, such as steady jogging, does not do this.
How do you do HIIT?
There are many variations on HIIT, from Tabata training to circuit training. Really, it is just about going back and forth from intense, all out bursts of activity, to lower impact active rest. For example, 30 seconds active and 10 seconds rest, repeated as many times as needed to reach the desired duration.
In order for HIIT to be effective, it is VERY important to give those intense bursts YOUR ALL. This way, you really do benefit from a cardio session lasting only 20 or so minutes. If you do not work your hardest while not in active rest, you might as well not have done the workout, for the results will not be what you are looking for... Yes, it is challenging... but isn't it so much simpler than spending an hour on the treadmill? Plus, the constant changing of intensities always keeps your interest!
Here is a staple HIIT routine that I will do before my lifting session. It is only 10 minutes, but is intense and gets the job done! Plus it can always be repeated to make it longer.
So...Why Should You Do HIIT?
To sum things up:
- It gets the job done in a short amount of time, compared to that of long, boring steady-state cardio.
- Constant change in intensity keeps things interesting
- Overall fat burn in increased
- You burn more calories after your workout, results of the "after burn" effect
- You become better conditioned and your endurance increased in a relatively short time span
- No equipment is required! Just look at the workout above... all body weight movements. Go for sprints around your neighborhood or track, use a jump rope, the possibilities are endless!
What are your thoughts on HIIT, and how often do you do it?
Could you or anyone you know be considered a "cardio junkie"?
Share you workouts!