Cardio is not only an obsession, but also a phenomenon in our community. Everyone from endurance athletes to seniors, soccer moms to weekend warriors can be found huffing and puffing in organized running groups, spin classes at local gyms, or on a treadmill at home. We’re hooked on cardio training, but how can we use cardio to get the best results from our efforts?

As a fitness expert, I work with clients who are often looking for similar results, but don’t know how to reach their goals. Some come to me for help losing fat; others want to improve their 10k runtimes. An effective cardiovascular tool that I have been incorporating into some of my training programs is ‘High Intensity Interval Training’ (HIIT).

HIIT is a powerful concept that describes activity performed in short, intense bursts of full sprints (30-60 seconds at a time) with minimal rest between each sprint. This versatile type of workout can be done anywhere and on any type of cardio equipment at your local gym.

Research shows that high-intensity interval training is more effective for both fat loss and cardiovascular improvement than slow, steady aerobic workouts such as long runs and/or walks. For example, athletes like sprinters, who push themselves for 45 to 60 seconds at a time, tend to have less body fat and more lean muscle tissue than marathon runners. Think of how athletes in other sports like tennis, soccer, and hockey perform high-intensity tasks for short periods when they compete and when they train and stay lean year-round. HIIT is a very effective way to build muscle, burn fat, and reap all the cardiovascular benefits.

High-intensity interval training has also been shown to raise EPOC levels in the same way that an intense session of resistance training would. EPOC stands for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption and is scientifically defined as the “recovery of the metabolic rate to its pre-exercise levels”. In layman’s terms, it means that you continue to burn calories at a high rate long after a HIIT workout.

In addition to the effect on your COPD levels, HIIT is effective because it makes it harder for your body to adapt to the activity. If you ran 5K every day for the next year, your body would eventually adjust to the routine. At the end of the year, you’d be running that 5K much faster than you started, and you’d be burning far fewer calories than you initially needed. The body needs new challenges to continue improving. So if you’re looking to improve your fitness level or burn more calories by running, you’ll need to gradually increase your distance. That means spending more time running and training, and less time with family and friends, doing the things you love. HIIT allows you to continue to challenge your body without spending a lot of extra time doing it.

My clients love the results and versatility of HIIT, and they love that it can be done in 20 minutes or less. You can do HIIT anywhere, on the treadmill or on a soccer field. One of my favorite places for high intensity interval training is on the big beach hill at Mooney’s Bay. Here are some tips for HIIT when you’re not in the gym:

Football field:

o Heat as long as you need.

o From one side of the field, run as fast as you can to the other side.

o Walk back to the other side. As you walk back, take a deep breath and get ready for the next sprint of wind.

o Once you are back on the side you started from, repeat the sprint and walk backwards 5 more times.

Swimming pool:

o In a 25 meter pool, heat as long as you need.

o Perform a full 25-meter sprint

o If you are a good swimmer, go back to swimming and relax, prepare for the next sprint.

o Once you have returned, take a few seconds to prepare for the next sprint.

o Repeat your sprint and swim on your back for 5 more cycles.

Have fun!

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