Choosing Your Cardio – Steady State Cardio or Sprint Intervals
Sally and Lynn were sitting at the local café catching up and Sally mentioned that she was joining a Sprint class down by the lake to help her get ready for the summer. It had been a long cold winter and Sally had a few unwanted pounds to lose to fit into her summer wardrobe. Lynn, who had run long distance races all through university, was skeptical that the Sprint class was going to get Sally the desired result. Lynn was also looking to lose some extra pounds was signed up for a charity 10 K race in 8 weeks and was going to lose the weight that way, just as she had in the past.
Let’s compare the positive aspects of the two plans:
Sally and Lynn will both benefit from beginning an exercise program and being more active. Both plans involve cardio and can therefore help to increase cardiovascular volume, decrease blood pressure and resting heart rate and improve oxygen delivery. Either plan will help to increase the aerobic base of the individual, the energy production delivery process that helps us do everything from walking to sprints. And, the great news is that both will increase fat burning, but there is a large difference in the amount of fat burning that will occur between the two plans. Steady state cardio and Sprint intervals are both easy to do and require very little equipment; a pair of good running shoes and a watch will get both women started.
Sally’s Sprint Class:
It is proven that an exercise plan that involves sprint intervals will burn more fat than steady state cardio. But, that is not a guarantee as exercise is only one part of the puzzle: diet, sleep and stress all play an equal part in fat loss. A large contributor to the increased fat loss is the protein synthesis which taps into the afterburn created from the larger metabolic disturbance. You will burn calories long after your workout is done. Sprints are fast – you do not want a sprint session to last longer than 30 minutes to get the most bang for your anaerobic buck. This means that they are a great fit for today’s very busy lifestyle. Sprints are not only physically challenging but can also challenge you mentally. If your hard/work interval is truly hard, it will test your mental grit to get through to the end. This is a great alternative for someone who has become bored with their current program or is looking for a new exercise challenge.
Jane’s 10K Road Race:
As mentioned above, steady state cardio helps to improve cardiovascular health; it is good for your heart and related systems. Walking or running is often a social activity as well as a form of exercise – friends gather and catch up, take the opportunity to assist the community through charitable events and see other parts of their city, province, country or the world. Steady state cardio can burn fat, although not as much as sprint intervals. Cautions need to be taken when training with steady state cardio – it can make you hungrier leading to compensation and, potentially weight gain. Lower intensity aerobic activity is also proven to help with reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and improves recovery by getting the blood flowing and removing lactic acid that accumulates in the muscles.
So, which one?
If you have limited time and opportunity to exercise, Sprint Intervals may be your best option. If you are new to exercise or overweight steady state cardio may be your best place to start. If you exercise 5 or more times a week, you will want to mix them up to benefit the most from both. Ideally, one or both are added to a strength training program that will help you build muscle and burn fat.
Talk to Head Coach Finigan or your coach to find out what would best complement your current training plan.
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