Some people hate it, some people love it. However you feel about it, cardio can be a very valuable tool to achieve and maintain great levels of fitness. While I do enjoy an occasional 5k, normally my cardio comes in the form of once or twice a week sessions of HIIT. High intensity interval training (HIIT.) is the ideal way to get cardio done for many reasons. Read more here.

A session of HIIT is split into two segments: “high intensity” and “low intensity/rest.” During high intensity segements you will be going at about 80%-90% of your maximum output. During rest segments you will be at a low intensity -think good paced walk or slow jog- or if you’re new to this, complete rest. Work and Rest ratios can be manipulated according to your experience, fitness level, schedule, etc.

Some ideal work/rest ratios are:


  1. 15 seconds high intensity
  2. 1 minute low intensity/rest


  1. 30 seconds high intensity
  2. 1 minute low intensity/rest


  1. 30 seconds high intensity
  2. 30 seconds low intensity/rest


  1. 30 seconds high intensity
  2. 15 seconds low intensity/rest


As your fitness improves you can increase each portion, up to a minute. I like to do 1 minute of high intensity and 1 minute of low intensity.

HIIT can be done with any traditional cardio machines or body weight exercises:

  • Treadmill
  • Eliptical
  • Stationary bike
  • Stairmaster
  • Jump squat
  • Squat
  • Lightweight goblet squats
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Push-ups
  • Jump Rope

A great low impact HIIT workout is swimming. From myfitnesspal:


Start your workout slowly to give your muscles an opportunity to warm up. Focus on your technique: long, powerful strokes move you through the water at a steady pace. Depending on your swimming experience, you can either do a longer swim (400–500 yards) or break it up into shorter distances, with rest every few lengths. But make sure to start slow and build your pace throughout, which raises your heart rate and prepares you to swim fast.


A good kick set helps you continue to warm up while also getting your heart rate up. Some swimmers use kickboards, but you can just extend your arms in a streamlined position or kick on your back.

Your kick should start at the hip, not the knees, which means you’re using your entire leg to provide propulsion. Keep your kick narrow and steady. A large up-and-down motion slows you down as it creates drag and reduces the power you generate.


This is the focus of your workout. The set should allow you to maintain a high heart rate over an extended time, which allows you to burn maximum calories. (Compare it to the fat-burning qualities of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT)

Here’s a possible structure to follow:

  • Swim two lengths of the pool at a quick pace
  • Rest for 5–10 seconds
  • Repeat

Let’s say you can do a 50 (two lengths of a standard, 25-yard pool) in 45 seconds. Your interval would be 50–55 seconds, meaning you should get about 10–15 repeats in.

Once you build endurance, you can increase the distance or decrease the interval.


Swim an easy 300 yards, broken up by 50s or 100s. This step is important because your body needs a chance to recover from the main set. Your pace should be like what you did in the warmup, and you should focus on good technique so your body can repeat it more easily when it’s tired.






Author: NFShealth

Certified personal trainer, grad student in nutrition. Obsessed about all things regarding nutrition and health.

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