What Is Low Intensity Steady State Cardio?

stretchingTwo years ago I was inspired to start doing HIIT as a quick way to get in shape and stay there. Did it work for me?

Yes it did – for a short while. Then my hips started aching as did my knees. Not being exactly young, I took this as a sign I should let up and stop. This was a good idea from the pain perspective, but not from my fitness level. So what alternative could i look at and feel was right for me?

Well, just as two years ago, today all the rage in fitness workouts seems to be getting as much done in as short of time as possible. While effective in increasing your fitness level in the least amount of time, it is not sustainable over the long haul as I found to my cost.

So when your body tells you it is time to slow down, and you need a training strategy that helps with recovery but yet still train, try something that will take longer to complete, but can be just as effective – low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio training.

Unlike HIIT where your heart rate fluctuates wildly between exercising and rest, low intensity steady state cardio keeps your heart rate in the moderate zone (50 to 60% of your maximum heart rate) until you start your cool-down.

Some examples of LISS cardio training include:
• Walking at a fast steady pace either outside or on a treadmill
• Biking on mostly flat terrain outside or on a stationary bike
• Dancing class, such as Zumba, hip-hop or salsa
• Using an elliptical trainer
• Pulling on a rowing machine

The Talk-Test

woman walkingWith all of these cardio activities, the pace is steady, but constant. You can use a heart-rate monitor to stay in the moderate range or use the “talk test”. You’ll know you are in the moderate range when you can carry on a conversation at the pace you are exercising. If you struggle talking, your pace is too fast. As you get in better shape, your pace will quicken somewhat, but it will still be easy to talk.

LISS sessions that last from 45 to 60 minutes and can condition the body over time to burn fat as fuel. However, a better strategy is to incorporate LISS training into your overall exercise routine. If you do cardio four times per week and strength training twice, make one of your cardio sessions LISS. When paired with some HIIT and yoga, it becomes a well-rounded training routine that not only prevents boredom, but is best for fitness and easy on the body.

While LISS is not an end-all training strategy, it certainly has its place as part of an overall routine. Try adding in a session a week, if experienced at exercising, or start with LISS solely as your training regimen until you are more fit and can add more training routines to your overall workout program. Or you may never progress beyond LISS … and that is O.K. too.