For anyone who pays attention to the world of fitness. To all of you who have picked up a Men’s Health or Fitness magazine in the past year or so. To the friend of yours who swears up and down that repeated sprints, burpees, rope slams, prowler pushes, and box jumps are THE way to burn fat and get shredded. I want you all to know one thing. You’ve been lied to.
I’ve been sitting on this one for a while. I thought “you know what, it’s not so bad. If it gets people off the couch and…”. Well you get the point. Look, I’m a pretty chill guy. Of the entire population as a whole, those of us who value and enjoy (insert whatever exercise it is you enjoy here), we’re a really small group. And that’s sad. It also means that we should embrace whatever it is that each of us is doing to better ourselves. If you do Crossfit I’m cool with that. Like yoga? Awesome! I frankly don’t care what you do as long as you enjoy it. But there’s a line that has been crossed. And that the line has been crossed isn’t really the issue. It’s what I think the repercussions of the crossing of that line might be for the lay public. I’m not hating on High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). It’s damned effective. I’m hating on the industry shaming longer duration, lower intensity exercise or Long Slow Distance (LSD).
Before you get too excited let me make myself perfectly clear. If you are looking to burn fat and get lean, then yes, HIIT is a great way to do that. But below are some of the reasons that it is not the end all, be all of cardio.
1. Not everyone can physically do HIIT type workouts. Be it from a previous injury or age (just to name a couple) HIIT may not be the best form of cardio for some people. I’ll use myself as an example here. I have a back condition that prevents me from doing a lot of forms of HIIT. So does that mean I should just not do cardio? That’s exactly what the fitness industry is saying right now. I’m afraid others out there will take the “HIIT or nothing” advice and avoid cardio altogether. NOTE: Yes, I am aware HIIT is relative and what might be a jog to me is HIIT for an 80 year old.
2. Just jumping in and doing HIIT without any cardio base is like first focusing on what supplements you should be taking and then worrying about what the rest of your diet looks like. It’s backwards. So can a seasoned vet jump in and do HIIT? Sure, but I don’t recommend newbies starting out with it. Mike Robertson has a great piece on this here: http://robertsontrainingsystems.com/blog/long-duration-low-intensity-cardio/ It’s also not a great idea from an injury prevention standpoint. Ever wonder why there are so many non-contact injuries in training camps for the NFL each year? It ain’t a coincidence. They’re jumping right back into an extremely high level of training. Some are freak accidents. However, some are due to the guys bodies not being used to that and going from 0-100 mph in an instant.
3. Not everyone has the same goal! This is a big one for me. Doing sprint repeats on a spin bike for 20 minutes 2x/week isn’t going to be the best training method for someone training for a marathon. I’ll let you come up with other areas this might apply. There are many.
4. The industry claims that LSD will make you fat. I’m serious. Not making this up. Here is a link to one from T-Nation. https://www.t-nation.com/training/final-nail-in-the-cardio-coffin The article isn’t all bad, but it misses on a few points. And I’m not trying to throw the author under the bus because I like Rachel. It’s just the most recent article that I could recall. Anyways, I think it ignores the fact that we are all individuals. When I trained for my first Half Ironman I dropped to just below 9% body fat. It was the first time I ever, and sadly the last time I’ve seen, my abs.
In conclusion I’d just like to say that if you take nothing else from this post, take this: We are all individuals with individual goals. Train for what suits you best. Sure, HIIT is effective. But you know what? So is LSD!!! In terms of diet and exercise, it is not an all or nothing approach. Do what makes you happy.