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Cardio vs. HIT–what’s the best workout?

Hey everyone! Blogging atcha from the bustling, multi-cultural, busy city of Toronto where Mikey and I are staying. I’ve got a fun update on the past few days’ events but I’ll save that update for another post as I have a very pressing (read: here’s what I think about!) matter to throw out to you guys today.

I’ve been thinking about the pros and cons of cardio versus strength training lately and wanted to muse over some thoughts here and offer them to you for dialogue. I really believe that both benefit your body, but I’ve asked myself if I could only do one of the two for the rest of my life, which would I choose?

Cardio, hands down. It’s my stress reliever, giver of endorphins, and I simply can’t imagine my life without running.

Strength training for sure. Nothing sculpts my body like it, and I see better results from it than running and tend to watch my eating more too as my appetite’s not amped with less running.

Hmmm…for those reasons for me, then, it seems to be a draw.

Partly why I’m bringing this up is because I’ve read often from those in the high intensity training camp that cardio is almost useless while simultaneously meeting many who only ever do cardio. So imagine my surprise when I saw an article about cardio from the great folks at Shapeshifter Body Redesign (who are pro short, intense bursts of exercise). My immediate thought: “They’re going to bash it and I might have to agree!” Here’s what I learned from Adam and Ryan, in their words with my additions:

Say YES to cardio!

Here’s why…

  • Cardio Adds More Volume

Cardio is a great way for you to add training volume — burning more
fat — without adding training stress and putting your recovery at

  • Fat For Fuel

It’s well-documented and known that when you do cardio, you use fat
preferentially for fuel. That means it’s a great way to clean up extra fat
while you train your body’s cells to burn fat more efficiently.

  • Cardio Spares Muscle Mass

Because it burns fat first, cardio is a great way for you to
add movement volume to your training without running the risk of
tapping into your muscle mass for fuel. Win-win!

  • Aids Recovery

By increasing blood flow, cardio can actually help you recover more
quickly. Hard to believe? Check it: your cells get flooded with nutrition while toxins and other by-products of cell metabolism are flushed away.


  • Increased Work Capacity

Cardio will improve your overall  physical preparedness as it enhances your endurance, which is a major factor in your general fitness. Cardio is STILL one of the best ways to develop it.

  • Moving Meditation

This one is my major factor for keeping cardio around: it’s one of the best ways to get in a “groove” through exercise. Writers claim they work on their books in their heads while running, others (like me) use it as a stress reliever (which is important for health!), and still others say it’s their time to zone out. Ever thought about why? The repetitive nature of cardio plus the relatively low
intensity combine to give the best environment for losing yourself in your thoughts. …Go cardio!


  • Perfect Match For Low Carb & Fasting Days

When you’re following a low carb diet or using intermittent fasting, you’ll quickly get yourself into a glycogen (“sugar”)-depleted state. In other words, your muscles and liver aren’t storing as much sugar. Because cardio uses fat for fuel, it’s a great match. It’s another one of the reasons Adam and Ryan love morning cardio before breakfast – and I have to agree (that and catching the morning sunrise!).

So…7 reasons why you should keep cardio around. Agree? Disagree? Cardio lover or hater? Red heartBroken heart

This comes in good timing as I joined in Monica’s Pile on the Miles Challenge. Unfortunately, registration to join in is closed, but you can still keep track of your miles for the month of November (walking or running). Click here for more info!

So this morning, November 1st, I rode the elevator up to the top floor for a morning treadmill run to get some miles in. I haven’t run since my long run in California, so my body was ready for some quick, fast miles. However, time did NOT fly by like it did for my last long treadmill run, and a goal of 10 miles turned into 7 – I simply couldn’t last it out on the treadmill! But the view was beautiful overlooking Toronto and I was happy to work on speed and power through my 7.04 miles in 1 hour.


The view on my way to the cardio area; my total distance for the run!

However, I recently posted that I’m going to focus on high intensity workouts rather than cardio in an effort to lean out and stay consistent with strength training. So in addition to the running challenge, I said yes to a strength training challenge too: a 200 kettlebell (KB) swings a day challenge! I LOVE KB swings as they work your entire body. Here are the basic rules of this challenge if you’d like to join in!

  • Completed swings in 10 min in one of the 2 following formats:
      • 10 sets of 20 – 1 set every min.
      • 20 sets of 10 – 1 set every 30 sec.
        (Remember: stopping and starting is more demanding than 4 sets of 50 or 2 sets of 100 etc. – true!)
  • Completed everyday for the month of November in conjunction with your other training. Should not act as your only form of training. You can make up days.
  • You should be fit enough to do the challenge from the beginning.


…anyone in?! Thumbs up

Here are a few reasons why strength training in the form of high intensity workout should not be ignored:

  • It revs your metabolism for up to 24 hours post-workout! A cardio workout bumps your metabolism but for less than half that time.
  • It takes less time! And we all know that most people are strapped for time. The truth is, you don’t have to spend a full hour lifting weights. Get in, work hard (it has to be intense to be short!) and
  • It’s a great way to add variety to your workouts, keeping you more engaged and more likely to stay consistent. Gone are the 3 sets of 12 reps that most (women) have performed for so long in the gym. Why not try a burpee to get your heart rate going WHILE using pretty much every muscle in your body? Bored of the weight machine routine? Give some Tabata Intervals a shot and get wiped out in no time. Add some extra muscle work in after if you want. This will keep you interested – variety truly is the spice of life when it comes to workouts!
  • High intensity resistance training, specifically, releases the human growth hormone in greater amounts. Why is this important? Because the release of this hormone helps the body burn fat for energy – yes!


Hot & sweaty after 7 miles, I performed my 200 swings w/a 20 lb DB in the hotel weight room!

Those are a few of the reasons why I could never get rid of these type of workouts. Personally, I’m a shorter/higher intensity-the-better type of person, but different workouts have their place.

Do you hit the weights often? Every tried more high intensity workouts? I know many women, in particular, are afraid of branching out from the cardio machines, but there is ample reason to incorporate strength training into your program. For more thoughts on how to get fit from home and see the benefits of exercise, check out this great post from Janetha!

If you’re looking for a great total body workout (you know I’m a fan of using compound muscle movements in functional ways!), check out Lindsay’s Tuesday Trainer for today – including one of my favorite heart-pounding, muscle burning moves from me in video form! Simply click the photo below to check it out:

I’d love to share your thoughts on cardio and resistance training here! And tell me, if you worked out today, what was your workout? Make it count! And remember to keep eating well because we all know these two truths:

1. Abs are made in the kitchen. (ie: you can do crunches ‘til you’re blue in the face but you won’t see change in that troublesome stomach area unless you’re eating clean along with your workouts!)

2. You can’t out-train a bad diet. No long run, no high intensity training, no long session in the gym can make up for calories consumed mindlessly. The two go hand-in-hand. Check out this convincing video for more proof!

Have a great evening, friends! Live well & be well,


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Comments ( 0 )
  • Lindsay says:

    i love both! cardio (easy cardio) is my meditation. Long slow runs are where I pray. Ya, i am that slow. haha.
    But nothing makes you feel stronger than those HIIT work. It makes those muscle burn and grow, which we need! love this article!

  • Life to the Full · Bodyweight Workout says:

    […] info on this site and in this article about bodyweight exercises being better than cardio (weigh in my thoughts here in case you missed the post!) – interesting stuff! As he writes, “Boom goes the bodyweight, […]

  • Lindsay @ Lindsay's List says:

    I’m with Lindsay – both are needed..both are good! Just watched that Ballantine video..SO good and so true! Nutrition really is 80-90% of weightloss!
    I like to alternate between long runs and HIIT. Makes your body guess about what’s coming next, decreases boredom!

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