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!