Let's add a little caveat here: I HATE RUNNING. Hate it, with a burning, fiery passion. But I do it. I run on the treadmill, I make myself run outside when the weather permits. I run. And I still hate it regardless of what the above image portrays. </caveat>
I would love to want to run. I would love to wake up or come home from work or leave on my lunch to go get in a "great run" - whatever the hell that is. (PS. Nicole is totally a runner, ask her all your running questions). With all of my hatred for running expressed... I choose to run because I want to be and remain healthy and participating in cardio and regularly getting your heart rate up is critical for your health. Or at least the second part of that sentence is critical.
It turns out, how you get your heartbeat up is less important than that you get it up at all.
What I mean by that is, I can get on the treadmill and run three miles (I mean hypothetically, if I was actually a decent runner) or, I can get on the treadmill and sprint for 20 seconds and then walk for a minute and then sprint for 10 seconds and then jog for 4 minutes, etc. etc. etc. My heart rate goes through the roof (in a good way) when I alternate like this rather than just running a steady 25 minute mile (I kid... I run like a 13 minute mile, but only one of them).
Apparently there is a name for this type of cardio, it's called HIIT - High Intensity Interval Training. And I think I'm a fan.
I should say here, I am not an expert on fitness, I am not a medical professional and I am solely speaking from experience and what I've read on the internet (here, here and here) which I'm absolutely positively sure is 100% true and accurate 100% of the time, HA. Please don't sue me.
I think that both forms of exercise are beneficial in their own ways. I just personally hate jogging for long periods of time to gain the same benefits as sprinting for a few seconds, exhausting myself, and then recovering before doing it again. Long steady cardio, such as running for 20 minutes straight at a 10 minute mile, is very beneficial for many aspects of your health. It helps to increase your stamina; it requires steady oxygen so you learn how to breathe and it generally raises your heartbeat to somewhere around 150 beats per minute, which is great! But I hate running. Alternatively, HIIT exercises don't require you to breathe steady for 20 minutes of breath defying exercise, you just have to take a breath and work your hardest and expel a ton of carbs into your extreme push and then you're done and you can catch your breath. Notice how I said expel a ton of carbs?? With a HIIT approach, you are burning a LOT of fat in a very short period of time.
With all of that said, when you run at a steady pace for a long period of time you get enough oxygen and enough blood pumping consistently, which actually lowers your heart rate which in turn makes your heart healthier and lowers your heart rate in regular life, outside of exercising. These are great things! However, if you're doing this let me run for 30 minutes at the same pace the whole time thing, you're body is adjusting and adapting, it's getting used to this and you're no longer pushing your boundaries or gaining muscle or even really burning much fat. You stop challenging yourself. And, although running uses a TON of muscles in your body, if you're doing the same thing every day, you're still using the same muscles every workout. Which means, you're putting a strain on the same muscles each time you perform that same exercise routine.
With HIIT, you do not get enough oxygen or blood pumping through the entire work out, instead you work harder and you burn a ton of fat in a very short period of time and then, more or less, return your body to it's natural state. It has been made very clear in articles and research that losing weight fast is going to happen through HIIT and not through classic cardio. HIIT also has what is (supposedly) known as the "afterburn effect", where your metabolism remains elevated for hours, or even longer in some cases. However, like any type of workout, HIIT has it's downfalls as well. With HIIT you are not working your aerobic muscles, meaning that you are not improving your resting heart rate. You may be fast and strong and losing weight, but you're not necessarily more cardiovascularly fit than someone who runs long distances regularly. So are you really healthier? It's hard to say.
Long, long post short - the overarching consensus on Cardio vs. HIIT in the community is that you need both. Burn fat and work out hard a day or two a week, but do some classic cardio to improve your cardiovascular health a few days a week as well. Like I said, I'm no expert, but from my experience I enjoy HIIT workouts more than classic cardio. Even for my classic cardio though, I skip the treadmill and rather get on the elliptical for long steady workouts at least 2-3 times a week.
It's all about balance, ladies. Have you tried these HIIT workouts? Are you trying to lose weight or just mix up your workout routine? What have you found works for you?