Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Crazy Cardio Q'n'A Volume 1

This is a real email I received. You can't make this stuff up.

Q: Craig, I just finished reading an article you wrote providing fat loss tips and I have a few questions. here's what my personal cardio regimen consists of: 90 minutes of interval training on a recumbent bike, 5 days per week. Throughout the entire workout 60 second work and rest periods alternate. I use a LifeCycle set to level 15 out of 25 for 90 minutes. My heart rate reaches a maximum 155 beats per minute. So, could I be doing better? 

You are wasting a lot of time in the gym. 90 minutes of interval training? I almost fell out of my chair.

What you are doing is aerobic interval training. But it's not "fat burning interval training" by my standards, and probably wouldn't even be used as fat burning interval training in a research study.

Real interval training is short, burst exercise, and is done at an intensity you could not maintain for more than 20-30 minutes, let alone 90 minutes. Research studies on interval training for fat loss and health rarely last more than 20 minutes. So I'm not sure where you got the idea to do 90 minutes.

The bottom line is that interval training is about quality, not quantity.

I like to keep interval training simple. You can work hard for a minute and then rest for 1-2 minutes. Do that 6 times and you are done the interval workout. That's it.

Sure you can do Tabata intervals (20 seconds hard, 10 seconds easy), I have nothing against them, but they are next to impossible to do on a machine, and even though I don't *love* cardio machines, the fact is most TT readers use machines to do intervals. So tabata intervals are just not practical for most of my readers, and that's why I don't recommend them in my articles.

If you do them, they should work fine. Obviously they get the job done fast. However, the longer intervals are also better for intermediate folks - less intimidating, and safer.

Anyways, the bottom line is that you don't need to do cardio/intervals for 90 minutes. Heck, you barely need to workout more than 90 minutes per week, let alone per workout.

Real fat burning interval training is a better use of your time,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

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William said...

His heartbeat only gets to 155 max over 90 minutes! Is this person even breaking a sweat?

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS said...

Yeah, I was really confused by that as well...