You might be used to slugging it out on the treadmill or slowly making your way up the stair stepper, but steady state shouldn't be your only form of cardio. While it does have its benefits, moseying over to the treadmill for 30 minutes at 3 mph can start to sound more like an extended cool-down than a chest-burning, adrenaline-pumping workout.
As important as it is to use cardio to get lean and show off all that hard work you put in the weight room, it's also important to remember that quality counts. If you're looking to get shredded to the bone and step away from treadmill-band boredom, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the way to go.
HIIT will ramp up your once-boring cardio sessions and challenge you at different points throughout every workout. It could even provide the mental stimulation you need to fuel your physical transformation! If you're ready to torch fat, improve your speed, and hit the ground running, this article is for you.
HIIT is a form of training that involves changing your pace at different points throughout a workout. It keeps your body from adapting and getting too comfortable with any one exercise while, simultaneously, helping you burn calories post-workout.
HIIT starts out with a short warm-up session followed by a short, high-intensity burst of energy followed by easy-to-moderate effort for the same amount of time. The high-intensity intervals call you to push yourself as hard as possible. The following low-intensity periods allow you time to recover. The pattern repeats until you finish with a cool-down period similar to your warm-up.
WHERE TO HIIT IT
1 Take It To The Track
There's no better place to break out a HIIT session than your local quarter-mile-long track. Not only do you have a great place to run, but you also have built-in markers.
After a warm-up lap, start jogging the straight stretches of the track. Once you reach the turns, turn your jog into a full-blown sprint. After you turn the corner, jog the straight stretch again. If you find yourself unable to jog or run for that long, walk the straight stretches while sprinting around the turns. Once you complete four laps, or one mile, walk a cool-down lap.
Looking to kick the intensity up another more notch? Make HIIT cardio more challenging by jogging an entire lap and then sprint an entire lap. Perform these intervals until you complete eight laps, or two miles of chest-pounding pain.
2 Run Around The Neighborhood
If you don't live near a track, don't worry. Just plot a route around your neighborhood! Pay particular attention to local markers like streetlights or trees. They can be used to help you pace yourself and gauge your progress.
Warm up by walking for a few minutes, then start with a light jog. Once your blood starts flowing and you reach your initial marker, start running. Once you hit your next marker—chase one that's far enough that you have to push yourself—transition back to a steady jog. Keep doing this until you make it back home.
If you live in a hilly area, your ranges are set for you! After your warm-up, run up a hill, and then jog or walk down. Push yourself up each hill to achieve maximum benefits. Shoot for roughly five hills, depending on the size and grade of each hill.
If you prefer to travel on wheels as opposed to foot, you can implement any or all of these strategies for your bicycle. Hop on your bike and pedal for a mile or so to warm up. Once you warm up, pedal with everything you have until you reach your predetermined mile marker. Then, slow down and cruise until you're ready for the next high-intensity burst.
4 Hit the Gym
Bad weather stops you from outdoor runs? Well, head to the gym! There are plenty of cardio machines and spaces to mix up your routine. You never have to worry about hitting a plateau.
Instead of struggling through sweat-filled summer sprinting sessions, take HIIT to the pool. Kick off your summer warm-up with two freestyle laps, followed by single laps of butterfly, breaststroke, and backstroke for time. Swim a slower lap between each stroke change. Repeat the sequence twice. Wrap it up with two cool-down laps.
6 Put Up Your Dukes
If your gym has heavy bags, or if you have one at home, take advantage of this great piece of equipment to knock the fat out. Warm up with 3-4 minutes of light jabbing while you move around the bag. Once you warmed up, get ready for 12 one-minute rounds of bag work. For the first minute, hit the bag as fast and as hard as you can without stopping. Hit, hit, and hit some more while moving around the bag. Once that minute's up, do a minute of light jabbing. Repeat this cycle until you complete 12 rounds. After you master the 1-minute rounds, add on 30 seconds. Once you get to 12 three-minute rounds, you'll be a well conditioned athlete.
BRING ON THE INTENSITY
"HIIT It!" Workout
Repeat this cycle until you get to 16:00-16:59 at 90%
How can you take your HIIT training to the next level? Rev up the intensity! Instead of just sprinting and jogging, start at 50 percent effort and gradually increase your speed and effort by 10 percent. Then, when you reach 90 percent intensity at 5 minutes, drop the intensity back to 60 percent and repeat the process.
Let's say you do a 20-minute cardio session … Warm up for one minute at 50 percent effort. Then, over the next four minutes, bump the intensity up 10 percent each minute. Once you reach 90 percent max effort, lower your intensity back down to 60 percent. Complete the ramp-up four times. At the end of the fourth cycle, on minutes 17-18, push your limits and go all out! Once you're finished, cool down for two minutes at 50 percent.
You can do this workout on the elliptical, recumbent bike, or other fixed cardio machines. To keep things fresh, don't use the same machine twice in a row.