Straight cardio for the rest of time?!

While I would never exclude such exercise types, they are not my 'go-to' activities. Even though I have both machine types at home (for when it rains), I prefer cardio to be more varied.


You see, when it comes to cardio, the Sensible Fitness Program is much more than just running, cycling or swimming to maintain overall physiological conditioning – and to burn calories.

How did I come to realize this?

From mid-2001 to the later part of 2007, I almost exclusively did high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as the cardio part of my training. I did three 20-minutes sessions a week, either running on flat-ish terrain, using a stationary bike or my treadmill (these last two only when the weather was inclement.

The format looked like this: 2 minutes at a moderately slow pace, 1 minute at moderate pace, 1 minute slightly faster, 1 minute faster still, and then 1 minute at around 90% intensity. This was 1 sprint. I then repeated the whole 4-minute thing again another 3 times.

So all-in-all there'd be 4 sprints in the 20-minute workout, except that the final sprint would have that 90% minute followed immediately by 1 minute at 100% intensity. Then there'd be 2 minutes at slow pace, and then I was done.

Effective as this was, with time, it would inevitably begin to feel a little too mechanical and repetitive – what with those individual minutes being ratcheted up to different levels while I constantly had to glance at my watch. 

This is why I ultimately settled on the 17-minute solution, which is today part of the Sensible Fitness Program.

It cuts out the unnecessary increments (in my professional view), while doing the same job in less time.

When I do HIIT for cardio, I use this solution most of the time.

Surely there's much more to cardio than HIIT

Indeed, HIIT is not the be-all end-all of cardio.

You see, depending on 'where' you'll be running, if the weather is fine enough to go outdoors, you could use a course which has variable terrain (where you can attack the hilly sections). Terri and I sometimes use a 5-6 km route close to where we live, which has an extremely steep part of around 250m. So what we do is either jog to the uphill part and do 3-4 sets of hill sprints for the entire run, or we use the hill just once as part of the full route, thereby having HIIT as a smaller component of an otherwise low/moderate steady-state (LISS/MISS) run.

Although I often talk about low, moderate and high-intensity cardio as individual disciplines, I like to finish off a 30-40 minute MISS run with a final all-out sprint.

The importance of the sensible approach

Getting back to the whole point-of-departure of the sensible approach: it needs to deliver the desired training effect for the individual's functional fitness goal, but it also needs to form part of an overall lifestyle – such that it can be sustained over the long-term by people like Al.

This means while trying to maintain a routine most of the time, building in other components or 'interesting' and stimulating activities is a very good idea.

Boredom and frustration are always lurking nearby  

In fact, the four of us as a family also go biking or hiking on the odd weekend, which, while leisurely and enjoyable – also have their cardio contribution to the overall scheme of things.

So for example, yesterday we did a fairly challenging 4-5 hour mountain hike. Due to the undulating terrain we covered, there was quite a significant cardio component to the outing. I estimate around 1000 calories' worth. So where my wife and I would have had a 35-40 minute MISS run this morning, we instead did an easy 1-2 hours' worth of cycling.

A bit of activity-trading, if you like, but all contributing to the overall wellness I harp on about.

Catch you soon!