Stealth Cardio Tactics (No Treadmill Required)

June 23, 2016

Cardio doesn’t have to be a dirty word. It’s been a long time since I was involved in endurance sport, but I still enjoy cardio*. However, I don’t often fancy the idea of plodding on a cross trainer for half an hour.

(*I realise that i might be kicked out of the bodybuilding “fam” for admitting this.)

So I employ Stealth Cardio tactics.

If you enjoy working up a sweat, but don’t want to do “traditional” gym indoor cardio, here are my 4 current favourites.

nicola joyce on a bike
Cardio disguised as commuting
I’ve been riding my bike to the gym (and back, obvi) a couple of times a week. Only when it’s sunny, mind. It’s not far – maybe 4 miles each way – but it involves a steep hill whichever way I go. (The gym is in the “East Cliff” part of town which should tell you something). So there’s 30+ minutes of cardio right there.

Only it doesn’t feel like cardio because 1) I like riding my bike, 2) it’s serving a purpose to get me to the gym and back again and 3) there’s plenty to see.

PS That photo is not recent. But it makes me laugh because it’s me, riding my bike, apparently to swimming club (note the 80s towelling swimming bag).

dog in a kayak
Cardio that’s funny
If you only need to do cardio for general activity levels, then the best kind is the funny kind IMO. Frankie thefitdog would agree. Here we are, attempting to paddle about together in a sea kayak. Quite possibly I found that funnier than he did. But you get my point. Challenge your kids to some sprints around the local playing field. Go and play badminton (or whatever sport you used to love) with a mate. Cardio can be fun, honest.

tabata on concept2
Cardio that’s so tough you can’t think about it til later
When I do cardio at the gym, my new favourite is the rowing machine. I’ve had some great advice from my fellow writer friend Patricia Carswell of Girl On The River, who’s a Proper Rower. I don’t know why I love the Concept2 so much, but I do! I think it’s because it’s proper hard cardio which makes me sweat buckets and feel like I might die a bit. (Don’t forget, I come from a very “ultra distance” endurance sport background).

I’ve mainly being doing “a href=””>tabata on the rowing machine. If you’re not sure what tabata is, it’s a structured form of intense interval training. One “tabata” is 8 rounds of 20 seconds HARD work/10 seconds recovery (4 minutes). I do 2 Tabatas – 16 rounds, for a total of 8 minutes.

I’ve also done a couple of 5000m rows, and a 2000m row just to see how long it would take me. Point being, if you choose a form of cardio that’s so challenging that you can’t zone out or get distracted, you might actually feel more inclined to do it. Maybe. If you’re weird like me!

Cardio that’s so short you don’t notice it til later
Finally, this is something I’ve been doing once a week: adding 1-minute bursts of cardio in to my weights workout (as giant sets). At first I wasn’t sure if this would actually feel effective. Erm… I can report that it definitely does.

The idea of course is to make the 1-minute bursts hard, so your heart rate stays high and you break a sweat. You could do this by hopping on a piece of cardio equipment, or by using a skipping rope, or doing any kind of bodyweight move like burpees. If your gym has conditioning kit (battle ropes, sled, prowler) or strongman events equipment (farmers walk handles, tyres to flip) then that would work, too. You can easily add 20 minutes of cardio to your day by doing it this way. 20 x 1-minute feels more manageable – and more fun – than 20 minutes of zombie mode on the cross trainer.

Do you do any cardio at all? What’s your favourite approach?

Stealth Cardio Tactics (No Treadmill Required) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Do you even SMIT? Supramaximal Interval Training

June 18, 2014

Sorry I’ve been so quiet on here! No excuses, just busy.

Today I wanted to talk about SMIT. No, not that one off “New Girl”. SMIT. Supramaximal Interval Training (you knew that, right?)

You’re no doubt familiar with HIIT (high-intensity interval training) – a cardio modality which involves repeating short periods of intense effort with even shorter periods of lower-intensity effort for recovery. There are various ways of doing HIIT, including a 2:1 ratio of work/recovery, and Tabata (20 seconds all-out effort, 10 seconds recovery, repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes work period). With HIIT, the effort is short but intense, and the recovery is shorter and medium effort. The idea is that the total session time isn’t long, but that you’re actually working for all of it (because you never give your system time to recover between intervals).

Anyway, move over HIIT. You’re so 2013. Today it’s all about SMIT.

I hadn’t heard of SMIT until this morning, when I read Nick Tumminello’s article about it (read it here). But I did know about it, because I’ve been doing it for years, both as part of my endurance-sport training back in the day, and more recently as a form of conditioning for bodybuilding contest prep. Only I don’t give it a name. I call it hill sprints, shuttle runs or track sessions (I have other names for this kind of session, but none are suitable for public conversation).

So, what’s SMIT and how is it different to HIIT?
Unlike HIIT, where the recovery/rest periods are active (usually about 50% of effort) and relatively short (typically shorter than the duration of the effort), with SMIT you need longer recovery. SMIT effort periods need to be all-out – think short sprints, hill reps, shuttle runs. You need to push yourself above your VO2-max (if you’ve ever done a VO2 max test, you’ll know what this feels like… !) The rest periods, however, are full rest. Slow jogging, probably even walking. Perhaps even a little lie on the ground before getting up and wandering around blinking the stars away from your eyes. You get the idea.

If you’re interested in reading more, check out this article on PubMed Endurance and sprint benefits of high-intensity and supramaximal interval training. And do read Nick Tumminello’s SMIT vs HIIT article , it contains lots of useful info about why SMIT may be better than HIIT, how to incorporate it into your training, and some session ideas.

As for me? Well, yes I do SMIT! And HIIT. And LISS (aka “walking the dog”). I’m currently doing hill springs (running) twice a week as part of the conditioning phase of my bodybuilding training. It takes me 30 minutes, and that includes walking/jogging to and from the bottom of the evil hill. No photos, sorry. SMIT is definitely not the kind of session which lends itself to selfies.

Do you do SMIT? Did you know you were doing it or do you just call it “cardio”, “intervals”, or “that session I dread/love/hate”?

Do you even SMIT? Supramaximal Interval Training is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

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