This comes at a time to which the topic at hand is becoming much more significant to my routine. In previous posts I have discussed an number of different ‘Should I…”s in the hope of shedding light on things I have tried, their benefits and whether they can have practical application to your lifestyle. Although cardio is something that always finds itself on the back-burner of the to-do list, it is definitely something that simply cannot be overlooked as far as improving general physical fitness capacity and body composition. While it is possible to be reasonably lean without having to buckle over your feet with boredom for an hour everyday, there’s certainly more to cardio than just the monotony we deem it so.
Take a typical high intensity resistance session; physically demanding, prolonged rep ranges and little rest, do we find ourselves exerted in later stages from said components or are we simply not fit enough? Would having a better CV capacity enable us to work beyond the barrier of breathlessness? Recovery and resilience between sets, especially at the upper limits of ones threshold may certainly be a useful feat to muster, notwithstanding everything else that comes with output at 100% or close to it. How much would that extra time award us in hindsight? more time under tension, more, reps, less can’t, more do.
HIIT- The buzzword of all buzzwords, the ‘H’ being ‘High’ and the first ‘I, Intensity’ Not, ‘Slow>maybe a bit harder>back to slow when I get tired>repeat’. This should be at the very top 90-100% of your threshold followed by an intermittent recovery period, the shorter this period, the more difficult and the more conditioned you will become to output at a higher rate with less rest. Despite Joe Wickes and other celebrity trainers milking HIIT, it is challenging and does break up the monotony of continuous cardio training. However, people seem to quantify HIIT work in sweat –I am sweating a lot therefore it must be doing something– rather than applying variations of different intensities in a systematic fashion, monitoring its effect on A. CV fitness and B. Body composition because ultimately, B is the end game for most people.
Another issue with ONLY doing HIIT is that everything else will now feel less responsive and/or not as difficult, and not all exercises are effective when performed in this fashion. General conditioning work and anything that gets you heart racing enough can bode well with everything else that comes with staying fit, but without being able to quantify where you’re at, you will struggle to gauge where you can realistically improve.
Take a 500m row, this should take most active people less than 2 minutes to complete, in and amongst a warmup row or HIIT training, such a test will gauge where you’re currently at. Performing this to time after a cycle of continuous or interval training will further indicate how quickly you are recovering –the closer the base time, recovery must be improving– This can also be done at 1 and 2,500 metres if you tend to do more continuous cardio, which surprisingly burns into fat stores at a much more greater capacity than HIIT.
So how many hours a week should I do cardio?
Depending on your fitness goals, having an active job may suffice for general fitness albeit the lifestyle and food choices one may surfeit to conflict. I would recommend doing some form of physical activity each day and something that challenges you on three specific days i.e
Monday- 30 mins/ 1 hour continuous bike
Wednesday- 2,500m row for time
Friday- Stepper or Elliptical intervals 10-15 minutes at 50%- 90%
40/20- 40 work/20 rest
Rather than me protest the importance of cardio, fully aware of people’s distaste with monotony and/or hard work, getting the amount right will work wonders for your overall body composition, whether that be in conjunction with heavy weight training, yoga or all competitive sports.
Now that I have completed my further studies for level 4 PT I do plan to post at least every week on various topics which may be of use to active individuals and fitness enthusiasts. I will be featuring 30 day challenges and transformation packages to purchase on my new website so keep your eyes peeled and follow @jakedarcyfitness on IG if you haven’t already.