When I first started working out in 2008, I did a LOT of steady state cardio. Lots of running, swimming, cycling, eliptical, etc at a fairly low level of intensity. Sometimes 90 minutes to 2 hours a day. There’s nothing wrong with that. I enjoyed it. It was time to myself, I could listen to podcasts or music and just zone out. I lost a lot of weight doing that, because it burns calories, and burning more calories is one way to create a calorie deficit. If steady state cardio is your thing, do it! Like I said there’s nothing wrong with it.
I had lots of time then, because both my kids were in school full time and I didn’t have a job, so two-hour workouts worked for my schedule.
But, as so often happens, life got in the way. I got a job. My kids got older and started having more and more after school activities that I needed to be around for. The window of time I had available for working out got smaller and smaller, and I found myself no longer getting the results I was after with the little bit of steady state cardio I was able to fit in.
Enter High Intensity Interval Training and weight lifting.
HIIT and weight lifting allow me to get the results I want (fat burn, muscle building, cardiovascular endurance) in less time. I can get the same (or better!) results from a 15-20 minute high intensity workout that I was getting before with an hour plus of running.
When people first look at the workouts I design, they frequently express doubt that they will achieve their goals with so little time put in. The truth is, the amount of time you put is is MUCH less important than the EFFORT you put in. Working at your maximum for 10 minutes creates profound internal changes in your hormone balance and metabolism. Your fat burning and muscle building potential are maximized. You exhaust your muscles and cardiovascular system, which requires your body to put more effort into repair, which results in faster strength, muscle building and endurance gains.
High intensity training doesn’t just refer to cardio intervals. ANYTHING you do can be high intensity, if you put your maximum effort into it. Heavy lifting is high intensity. Light lifting, done quickly at high volume (high reps) is high intensity. Anything that jacks your heart rate up and leaves you gasping for breath is high intensity.
The quality of your results will directly reflect the intensity of the effort you put in. If you half-ass your workouts, you will get half-ass results. Work HARD every workout, and you will see amazing results. Keep that heart rate high, keep those rest periods short, work your ass off! You CAN get in shape in 30 minutes or less a day, you just have to push hard during those 30 minutes.
Here’s an article on interval training, it focuses on adding intervals to your cardio sessions, but remember: anything that requires you to work HARD is high intensity.