Just say NO to LSD!
Don’t worry – I am not talking about Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, a psychoactive hallucinogenic drug popular in the 60’s and 70’s but rather Long Slow Distance. Obviously the former ride would be considered a bad trip. Nonetheless, when deciding on a method of “cardio”, long slow distance is most definitely not where it’s at.
Interval training is the route you want to follow to get fit and healthy.
First, determine your goal. Are you training for a marathon, triathlon or ultra-marathon? If so you will need to do some long slow distance as part of a well designed and individualized training program which also includes training faster and at shorter distances along with a strength and power program.
Most of us are not training for these types of events and, hence, the mainstay of this article will focus on more typical, real life applications.
If your goal is to improve health and fitness, lose body fat and reduce stress, long slow distance will not be the best vehicle for you.
Grinding away on the treadmill, walking at 3.0 mph for hours at a time or a leisurely stroll through your neighborhood will simply not cut it.
Face the facts: most people do long, slow cardio because it’s easy, not due to its magical fat-burning properties. If you want to be as lean and as muscular as possible you need to up your intensity.
How many people do you know that do long, slow cardio several times a week, even with a professional trainer, and still have trouble getting fit and losing weight?
The reason is because cardio doesn’t cut it. High-intensity interval training is where it’s at!
Intensity is a relative term and will be different for each individual by degree not kind. Intervals can be anywhere from 10 to 15 seconds up to 5 minutes. The mode can be walk/jog, walk/run, jog/sprint, bike, row or swim. The training could be as simple as walking for 100 m, then jogging for 100 m performing anywhere from 5 to 15 intervals. The possibilities are limited only by your own creativity.
There should be a thorough warm up taking anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes preparing the body for what is to come and some appropriate drills for more intense modes like sprinting. The actual “work” phase can be anywhere from 5 minutes up to 30. Anything past that is usually self defeating as that type of intensity is difficult to maintain for a longer duration.
Let’s just say this if you can talk, read a magazine or watch television you are most definitely not working hard enough. If you are not sweating you are not working hard enough.
Your breathing should be labored and talking difficult if not impossible. If you are faint, nauseous or dizzy you need to tone it down a bit. You must assess where you are at, begin at a level appropriate to your fitness and build gradually to this type of intensity.
Interval Training in Your Fitness Program
Beginners: warm up thoroughly 5 to 7 minutes. This may be merely a walk or a slow pace on a bike if that is your chosen mode. Start with 4 intervals of 30 s intense (to your level) walking, jogging or biking and 2 min of recovery at a slower or less intense pace. That will take 10 minutes. Cool down of 5 min and some stretching and your entire workout is taking you only 20-25 min. Build from there.
Intermediates: warm up thoroughly 5 to 10 minutes with an activity similar to what you will be doing. An example would be an 800 m jog and some mobility work. Workout could be a 200 m fast run followed by a 200 m walk. Perform 5 to 8 intervals. Cool down of 5 min followed by some stretching. Build from there.
Advanced: warm up thoroughly for 10 min with an activity similar to what you will be doing. An example would be an 800 m run, mobility/agility drills, acceleration build up sprints. Workout could be a 1-2, 400 m sprints w/ a recovery of 1:2, 2-3, 200 m sprints with a recovery of 1:3 and 3-5, 100 m sprints with a 1:5 recovery. Cool down 5 min followed by 10-15 min of stretching.\
If each of these 3 workout examples is done correctly you should not have anything left. You don’t want to–you gave it your all. We are all busy and time is a precious commodity. So use yours wisely.
If you just enjoy long slow distance there is nothing wrong with that once in awhile; it can actually be therapeutic. A nice long walk along the beach, in a park or on a trail with family/friends/lover or by yourself can do wonders for the mind but when it comes to fitness your training of choice should be primarily interval based.
In order to reap the greatest overall benefits in both health and fitness just say NO to LSD – both of them.
Hmmm….I concur with another commenter that not everyone is suited to HIIT. For those who can do it, yes, it does have its benefits. However, that doesn’t mean that steady – rate cardio is a total waste of time. For one, the longer you workout, the more calories you burn. Secondly, there was a study cited in Fitness Rx Hers (Blast Fat! Reach a New Fitness High with LSD – the 80:20 Rule on page 72, August 2010) which discussed the results of a study on athletes using HIIT – it turned out in the right amount, their performance improved. However, when doing too much, their performance declined. So there can be too much of a good thing with HIIT.
Experience Life magazine wrote a good article HIIT as well. They, echo similar precautions, and state that long, slower cardio does have its benefits, and shouldn’t be abandoned as well (both articles recommended to mix it up for the best benefits).
Here is the Experience Life article:
My mistake – Fitness Rx for Women not Hers (sorry, I was thinking of Muscle & Fitness Hers, but it’s still in the August 2010 issue 🙂
a moderate life
Sarah and Paula, thanks for this great post. As a devote of Tabata protocols, aka super short interval HIT training, I can attest to the fact that shorter, high intensity intervals are the way to go to get your body in great shape. Also, if you can commit to the shorter duration with an all out approach, you will accomplish so much more and with more time to do the other things you want to do in life, like cooking and blogging! 🙂 Alex
I agree that while interval training is useful in my activity practice, I can't discount how longer runs (3-5 miles) have helped with my mental and emotional health. A combination of these longer runs, intervals, hill work, and a nutrient-dense diet has been key in keeping my emotional health especially in check. Of course, this is what works for me, and it might not be the best route for someone else.
I personally don't care for the gym, so I do all my running outside, even in the heart of winter. I do yoga inside, of course. There is something about being outside, running, breathing hard in the fresh air that is restorative. I just don't get that same experience in the gym indoors on the treadmill. Yoga is also calming and contributes to fitness, but it is a totally different animal from running. I also find that stretching is another positive element contributing to my overall physical health.
The best thing is to find what works best for you, and that might change as you go through the years. I use to run competitively years ago, left it behind, and have come back to it over the past several years. I'm so glad I did! Am loving all of it – it gives me such a sense of accomplishment!
Forgot power (top 10)
Walking, pilates, yoga, stretching and eating a healthy traditional diet are all good things; they will help you lose weight, reduce stress and are all a great "part" of a well balanced lifestyle but you need more if you want to move beyond "wellness" into "fitness". My definition of fitness would be someone that is competent in 10 areas: cardio respiratory endurance,stamina, strength, speed, flexibility, coordination, agility, accuracy and balance. They do not specialize at anything; in other words they are well prepared to handle anything life may throw their way.
In order to achieve this state of fitenss, you must have a solid nutritional foundation, move fast, moderate and slow at times, use your bodyweight in movements, lift heavy things,and either play sports or perform functional activities daily. If any of these are missing, you will only be well and not fit.
With interval based training you can accomplish the "cardio" portion in much less time that 6-7 hours a week. I don't know about you all but I don't have that much time; if you do and you enjoy long, slow activites go for it. Personally I would rather hit it hard be done with it and get on to my next activity.
Running, walking and sprinting were the examples used. Cardio based interval training can be done on a bike, a rower, swimming, or an elliptical. The mode is irrelevant, the method and results the same. Not everyone likes interval training because it is not easy– it often hurts; you breathe hard and sweat, you push yourself to be better than you were last week, it is progressive, it is not pain free.
Traditional peoples certainly did do "interval" training. When they were running from an enemy tribe or man eating animal you can bet they weren't going at a sustained pace. They were sprinting like a bat out of hell. Their lives depended on it. That elicts a tremendous nueroendocrine response and is part of the protocol true fitness demands. While most of us today are not running for our lives the modern day stressors can be much worse.
While enjoyment is definitely part of it and should be, for the best results pick up the P.A.C.E.!
Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist
Sarah – too right. Enjoyment in one's activity, whatever it may be, is so important! Without enjoyment, we'd all be sitting on the couch flipping the channels.
This will look like a cheesy ad, but it hits exactly on everything that everyone is saying:
Progressively Accelerating Cardiopulmonary Exertion (P.A.C.E.)
Actually, I have done interval training, with two different trainers. But the best work I've done was with a private pilates, stretch, and walking coach. I suppose that what I do and did with her varies intensity, but it's not what one thinks of when you say "interval training".
I think the confusion here is that the title is "Cardio Will Not Get You Fit" but the thrust of the post seems to be that only interval training will and the examples are run, walk, sprint.
Interval training does include some cardiovascular exercise–just not solely and not extended. But cardio is not synonymous with "LSD". I wouldn't classify Pilates or range of motion exercise (like tai chi) as cardio. And, they do go up and down in intensity, but I also wouldn't call them interval training. And, as for the time spent, you can't really get a full program of Pilates in 30 minutes.
As for that first dead marathon runner, I'm not advising runs like that. But, no one has ever shown that long brisk walks are bad for your health. A 90 minute walk isn't that long for people who love to walk!(I hate treadmills, so I wouldn't advise long treadmill time!)
I think we can all agree that you shouldn't over extend the intense part of your workout, but neither should you discount continued sustained exercise. Plenty of traditional peoples did not do interval training, but were fit because activity was rolled into their lives. THey walked everywhere they went and had to be continually active to get things done.
Sarah, I love your blog. This guest's post is provocative, especially for all of us non-mainstream fitness people. For me, enjoying my activity is just as important as the results and the amount of time for those results.
Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist
I love yoga too and find that it gets me very toned and flexible and strong. The great thing about yoga is that you can do it very intensely for a few minutes and then back it off to rest for awhile. Yoga is very geared toward intervals I think. I'm kind of referring to fit as someone who has endurance as well as strength and power. My experience with cardio is that it may give you decent endurance, but you are still weak as a kitten when power and strength are required for a particular move or activity.
I guess it depends on your definition of "fit" is. If you want to get toned, I've never been more toned than when I was doing mysore style ashtanga yoga 4-6 mornings a week. As far as running goes, whenever i start to really get into training mode for a race. I tend to gain about 10lbs. Running makes me hungry! But intervals and long runs get me in great shape to run long distances. Which one makes media more fit? I have no idea…