HIIT, SIT, OR LSD?
Updated: Jul 17
How to overcome boredom during Cardiovascular Exercise.
Let's be honest, most people do not like Cardiovascular Exercise. I often hear people say "I get sore knees, ankles or lower back" closely followed by something along the lines of "it is so boring!". Pain is a very valid reason for avoiding types or exercises. If we understand that pain is often a result of underlying musculoskeletal imbalance, and address this with improvements in technique, the pain can be managed, if not overcome.
Overcoming boredom during cardiovascular exercise is a much greater challenge for most people so what I would like to do is give you some alternatives and examples to help you improve your cardiovascular fitness (from here on referred to as cardio).
Benefits of Cardio
If you do not understand why cardio is beneficial, let me explain how and why it should be incorporated in to your training. Cardio is generally considered as exercising at a heart rate between 50-70% of age predicted maximum.
This means that the only by-products we produce are CO2 & Water (Sweat). Why is this good?
Well to oversimplify a number of biochemical processes, without going too deep so that we can stay on topic, our body can utilise fat as an energy source which also produces water & carbon dioxide. This means you are using your body fat as a source of energy!
On top of the potential fat loss, cardio has been shown to reduce resting heart rate, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure in most people, reduce stress, improve sleep, mood, memory & insulin sensitivity (To avoid a lengthy read I am staying on topic here so you will need to ask to find out why & how it improves all of the above).
Hopefully by this point I have convinced you to include some cardio into your routine, but I still need to offer some variety so that you do not get bored while doing it.
There are a number of ways to work your cardiovascular system or perform 'Cardio' training, we will list three below but, the most important thing to remember is which of these works best for you.
Here is three very different (styles) ways of doing cardio and examples of how each can be effective workouts with 20 minutes or less:
LSD - Long Slow Distance
This is the most common and involves choosing a type of exercise, i.e. cycling, rowing, running, swimming or skipping if so inclined, and maintaining a steady pace and work rate for 20+ minutes. Sounds boring, but changing modes can provide a great deal of variety.
The advantage of this type of exercise lies in its simplicity as once you have decided what exercise you would like to do, you get into it. LSD is a great way for those new to exercise to start establishing a base level of fitness before attempting more intense alternatives.
eg: 20 minute continuous run @55-80% age predicted heart rate maximum.
20 minute continuous row @55-80% age predicted heart rate maximum.
20 minute continuous bike ride @55-80% age predicted heart rate maximum.
SIT - Sprint Interval Training
This is the crazy brother of HIIT that often gets called the wrong name. SIT involves working at maximal intensity for very short periods, no more than 30 seconds, interspersed by long durations of active rest ranging from 2, 3 or even 5 minutes between bursts. This is typically performed for 3+ rounds depending on your training level and fitness experience.
The advantage of this experience is the opportunity to go as hard as you can. For many this is exciting to see just what their body is capable of. It is also a great way to change up the normal cardio routine or get some quick cardio in at the end of a weights session or a long day.
eg: 3 rounds of 30 second "All Out", 4 minute slow active rest on the rower
or bike or treadmill.
HIIT - High Intensity Interval Training
Now we have arrived at the popular kid in school, the one whose exploits and whimsical achievements may have often been slightly over exaggerated. High Intensity Interval Training involves short periods of high intensity but NOT maximal intensity usually ranging from 1-3 minutes, followed by 1-2 minutes of active rest typically repeated for 3+ rounds depending upon your fitness level and training experience.
The advantages of HIIT is its ability to be applied in a sports specific capacity and just like SIT it can also be a great way to change up the normal cardio routine. The important thing to remember is that these high intensity bursts are NOT and should NOT be maximal efforts. Aiming for a heart rate of 85-95% of its age predicted max is ideal.
eg: 3 rounds of 4 minute 85-95% age predicted heart rate maximum, 3 minute
slow active rest on a rower bike or treadmill.
All three of these training types have been shown to increase lung capacity, improve sleep, mood, memory, insulin sensitivity and decrease body fat, resting heart rate, cholesterol, blood pressure and in many people stress. Is any one of them a magic bullet for fat loss? As much as I wish that was the case the jury is still out, as there appears to be no tangible difference when it comes to their effect on reducing an individual's fat mass when compared to each other.
There has been some significant variations shown when looking at how each type of training provides other cardiovascular benefits. The important thing to remember is that the type of training you are doing does not matter as much as actually doing some training. I repeat, doing any type of training is better than doing no training.
What about adding cardio on to a weights program?
It is recommended to add in cardio at the end of your weights session, as studies have shown that cardio immediately before lifting leads to reductions in maximal strength and power during the session, but this is just general advice and really depends on what your specific goal is. Some studies also suggest that this has the added benefit of increasing Excess Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) leading to fat being utilised as a fuel source even after you have finished a workout.
Hopefully, you are now inspired or at least a little bit more knowledgable about what cardio is. If you have questions reach out at email@example.com I would love to hear how you incorporate cardio into your training and if you have tried HIIT, SIT or LSD (the training not the other kind!)
Gillen, J. B., Percival, M. E., Skelly, L. E., Martin, B. J., Tan, R. B., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Gibala, M. J. (2014). Three Minutes of All-Out Intermittent Exercise per Week Increases Skeletal Muscle Oxidative Capacity and Improves Cardiometabolic Health. PLoS ONE, 9(11). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0111489
Liu, J.-X., Zhu, L., Li, P.-J., Li, N., & Xu, Y.-B. (2018). Effectiveness of high-intensity interval training on glycemic control and cardiorespiratory fitness in patients with type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 31(5), 575–593. doi: 10.1007/s40520-018-1012-z
Sloth, M., Sloth, D., Overgaard, K., & Dalgas, U. (2013). Effects of sprint interval training on VO2max and aerobic exercise performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 23(6). doi: 10.1111/sms.12092
Viana, R. B., Naves, J. P. A., Coswig, V. S., Lira, C. A. B. D., Steele, J., Fisher, J. P., & Gentil, P. (2019). Is interval training the magic bullet for fat loss? A systematic review and meta-analysis comparing moderate-intensity continuous training with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). British Journal of Sports Medicine, 53(10), 655–664. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-099928
Wen, D., Utesch, T., Wu, J., Robertson, S., Liu, J., Hu, G., & Chen, H. (2019). Effects of different protocols of high intensity interval training for VO2max improvements in adults: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 22(8), 941–947. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2019.01.013