With my competition prep seeming to be right around the corner (about 5 weeks away!), I’ve started to *think* about cardio. It’s going to be added as a tool for weight loss, but will be used strategically.
I actually enjoy cardio. Blame it on the years of cardio activity I’ve done in the past, but I really do like it – getting sweaty always makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. However, there are better forms of cardio you can do to reach your goals without burning yourself out – our goal during prep is to lose body fat while maintaining as much muscle mass as possible.
Cardio burns through calories, which is what you’re looking for when trying to lose weight. However, logging hours and hours on a treadmill each week isn’t going to help you in the long run (no pun intended). Pounding away on these machines will flood your body with inflammatory hormones, spark your hunger for the rest of the day, and potentially erase any strength training gains you’ve made, not to mention the stress on your joints!
My cardio of choice? HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training! Interval training has so many benefits, such as:
- Keeps working after you’re done. When you do steady state cardio, you burn calories as you’re working. Once you step off that machine though, the burn stops too. With HIIT, your body keeps working after you’re done sweating, giving you more bang for your cardio buck!
- Everyone loves efficiency. Following up with benefit #1, you get more results in less time. 45 minutes of incline jogging or 15 minutes of intervals? I’ll take the 15 minute option, please.
- The options are endless. You can do HIIT in so many forms; inside or outside, on cardio equipment or with plyometric body-weight moves. So, no matter where you are, you can get in a solid workout that involves your whole body.
My cardio machine of choice is the stairs. These provide a good workout for your legs and butt – an extra bonus. Doing HIIT on the stairs for my last prep allowed me to keep my legs looking fuller than they had in the past, either from the shorter work periods, or the added work from the high intensity peaks. If you’re going to use the stairs, please do yourself a favor and don’t LEAN on the railings – make your legs work, not your arms!
My HIIT protocol? Warm up for 5 minutes at 50%, then do 2 minutes at 90% followed by 2 minutes at 50% – repeat for five cycles. That’s just 20 minutes of work, plus a warm up and a cool down. If you’re just starting out with HIIT, keep your peaks shorter than your recovery phases (e.g., 30 sec peak, 60 sec recovery) and build from there. Play with your times, but make sure you’re breathless during your peaks!
One thing to keep in mind with HIIT – it should be HARD. Those high intensity peaks should leave you panting and dripping sweat. For this reason, you don’t need to do it for long sessions. Also, give your body some time to recover between sessions as this can be taxing on your nervous system. Train hard, but train smart!