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Doing cardio today?  What if I told you you can spend 1/2 the time and double the benefit?  You would absolutely do it, wouldn’t you?  Activate your cardio workouts.

If you’ve read my earlier posts, you know know how strongly I feel about strength training being the foundation for your fitness routine because a) you’ll burn more calories per workout with strength training as opposed to cardio-only activity, and b) you’ll set your body up to build lean (muscle) tissue, the magic bullet for boosting your metabolism and burning stored body fat while you sleep.

So, this post is for those still unwilling or unable to strength train at this point, and for those who are doing cardio on their day off between strength training workouts.  This is also great for those who have plateaued in their fat loss and are looking for another trick to kickstart the metabolism.

It’s true.  You can workout less and achieve more.  It’s called High Intensity Interval Training.  Let’s say you jog on the treadmill for 45 minutes at a moderately easy pace.  Today, I’d like you to spend no more than 20 minutes on the treadmill.  The first 5 minutes, you’ll warm up at an easy pace, gradually increasing the intensity to moderate after each minute (ie. 1st minute – walk at 3.5, 2nd minute – jog 4.5, 3rd minue – jog 5.5, etc.  Please note, I’m just giving a rough outline here.  Obviously, I don’t know every reader’s fitness level, age, and injuries, etc.)

After 5 minutes of warming up, jack up the intensity (my intensity level is between 10.0 and 11.0  at 3.0 incline.  I’m 38 and in excellent condition) to a sprint.  It may take the treadmill 15-20 seconds to reach the desired speed.  Then sprint for a minute at that high intensity.  At the end of a minute, grab the side rails beside you and step your feet off the belt and onto the sides of the treadmill so you are straddling the belt which is now running between your legs.  Turn the speed down to a walk (3.5) for the next minute.  With about 10-15 seconds before the walk interval elapses, jack up the intensity again to a sprint.  If you were able to last the entire minute last time without falling off the treadmill, then run a few mph’s faster this time.  At the end of the minute of sprinting, grab the side rails again and step off the side of the treadmill while the belt slows down to a walk and walk the remainder of the interval.

Here’s what my interval session looks like:

min 0-5 – walk to a moderate jog (3.5 – 7.0)
min 5-6 — sprint at 10.0 (3.0 incline)
min 6-7 — walk at 3.5
min 7-8 — sprint at 10.0 (3.0 incline)
min 8-9 — walk at 3.5
min 9-10 — sprint at 10.5 (3.0 incline)
min 10-11 — walk at 3.5
min 11-12 — sprint at 10.5 (3.0 incline)
min 12-13 — walk at 3.5
min 13-14 — sprint at 11.0 (3.0 incline)
min 14-15 — walk at 3.5
min 15-16 — walk at 3.5 (at this point, I’ve pushed myself so hard I may need 2 minutes to recover)
min 16-17 sprint 11.0 (3.0 incline)
min 17-20 walk at 3.5 (cool down)

Note – the same interval philosophy can be applied to any cardio machine:  stepmill, stationary bike, elliptical trainer (though I hate this machine and only advise you use it if you have an injury and have told by a doctor to only use this machine).

Play games with yourself.  Check your heart rate at the end of your sprint (most treadmills have a heart rate monitor on the handles of the console).  I want to get my heart rate up over 170 bpm at the end of my sprint interval.  REMEMBER, I’M ONLY GIVING YOU MY WORKOUT.  Assuming you don’t have any kind of heart condition and you’ve been cleared by a doctor to exercise to exercise, push yourself.  Try to get your heart rate up as high as you can at the end of your 1 minute sprint interval.  It may only take you 6.5 or 7.0 mph for 1 minute to get your heart rate up to near max.  The incline is another tool that makes it a little harder, so if you are not comfortable running at an all out sprint but you are comfortable running at, say, 6.0, then jack up the incline to make the run interval harder.  It’s all about heart rate.  Try to get your heart rate as high as you can at the end of your sprint interval.  If you are not about to fall off the back of the treadmill at the end of your interval, go faster (and/or increase the incline next time).

Here’s what happens when you train this way:

1.  You create a greater caloric deficit.  Very simply, you burn more calories at 20 minutes with these high intensity intervals than you do at a sustained pace for 45 minutes.
2.  Your body will be burning three, four, up to NINE TIMES AS MUCH FAT later in the day just in recovering from the beating you just gave it.  This is called exess post-oxygen consumption.  In other words, your metabolism will be revved up for a much longer period of time because of the higher intensity of the workout.
3.  HIIT has an anabolic effect on the body.  Steady-state cardio training actually breaks down muscle tissue while these high intensity bursts of output actually help to stimulate muscle growth.

Go ahead, get more bang for your buck.  Activate your cardio.  Workout for half the time and get twice the benefit.  Let me know how it goes.

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