The BIG 3 Cardio Variations

Cardio….it is a love/hate relationship for me. Fifty percent of the time I am feeling like I own that treadmill and the other fifty I am cursing its existence. I know I am not alone!

There are some confusing variations and misguided terms for the main cardio styles you can perform.  Each is unique in what it can do for you and your body, as well as reaching your goals, BUT each is so different you cannot label one as the other.

I have my clients do all variation of cardio. While some hate getting their sweat on, they learn to understand the benefits it can do for their training. You CAN keep it short and sweet some days and long and boring, I mean IMPORTANT, other days.

So, what are these variations?


Now, how are they different? Let me explain.

  • EXAMPLES: Walking and jogging.

This type of cardio means you are performing the same continuous activity for longer periods of time. The exertion you put into the exercise does not change and your heart rate never reaches its max. The goal is to keep your heart rate around 140 and never get above 160 during a 30 minutes or longer workout.

LISS is Aerobic.  It requires oxygen and is fueled mostly by stored fat.  That is a good thing! However, you will only burn fat while you are doing the activity. It is an instantaneous burn with little to no effect on your metabolic rate. This type is ideal for days you do heavy lifting, or on your active rest days. You could sustain LISS for endless amounts of time. 

The importance of LISS is to help increase performance of everyday functions. Your endurance to be able to sustain the other two types listed below comes from steady state training. So do not eliminate it completely!


  • EXAMPLES: Group Fitness Classes (Body Pump, High Fitness, Kickboxing), Speed training on the treadmill, Cycling, circuit training.

This type of cardio means you are slowly increasing your exertion level for longer periods of time, with recovery periods varying in length. This is often confused with HIIT. While you can reach your max heart rate during interval training, it is a process to get it there.  Your hear rate doesn't always reach it's max every new segment.  

Interval Training is more  effective in burning more calories in a 20 minute session than LISS. This is because your heart rate will stay elevated for longer periods of time.  Depending on the intensity of your interval training, you may have some periods of anaerobic exercise. This causes the body to be in an oxygen deficit and rely on its main fat stores for fuel and energy transfer. This also helps with the added calorie burn.  Your body continues to burn calories at a higher rate, while not exercising, as it works to resupply the body with the energy it needs.

If you are doing any type of interval training it is best to do it for no more than 20 minutes in conjunction with heavier lifting.  If you are not lifting that day, your body can usually withstand a 45-60 minute interval workout.


  • EXAMPLE – Treadmill Sprints, elliptical sprints

This type of cardio is the buzz word all over fitness magazines, posts, articles and even your friends.  It is an extremely effective way to get a 10 minute cardio session in, BUT when people are performing "HIIT" they are is usually completing interval training, not HIIT.

To effectively perform a HIIT workout you will push your body to its max (90 to 100 percent of maximum capacity) for a brief, set time period (usually two minutes or less), then back off for a longer recovery (usually two minutes or less).  You will then repeat that same pattern for no more than 10-15 minutes.  If you can sustain the workout for longer than that, the intensity was not there for it to be a HIIT workout.

HIIT is Anaerobic. The working intervals don’t rely exclusively on oxygen and are fueled mostly by stored carbohydrates (glycogen). This is where your body goes into “shock” mode.  In a 10 second period you have completely drained your body of any ATP stores and your body is now quickly working to replenish it.  Like Interval training you body will be in an oxygen debt and needs to be replenished. Your body will be in a period of increased oxygen and energy demand just to replenish the oxygen.  This is due to your body needing to metabolize nutrients, replenish stored energy and reloaded the deleted oxygen stores in the muscle and blood. This can take up to HOURS after your workout! This is where the magic of HIIT comes in!

You should not complete any HIIT training on heavy lifting days. The combination of the two will result in a decrease of your muscle build since both require large amounts of energy for the rebuilding process.  This type of cardio is great for finishers to circuit training, group fitness classes, or if you just need a quick workout.

Now, even though all of these styles are beneficial to have in your workout routine, sticking with one is not harmful to your weight loss results, if fueled properly.  If you love to casually run or walk DO IT! I am all all about just moving your body in whatever form that may be.  Find what motivates you, encourages a positive exercise routing and then be consistent.  Results will come!

So my question is, do you love or hate cardio? Are you a cardio junkie and can’t get enough?  Which is your poison of choice?? If you want more FREE workouts get them HERE.

For me, it is always a HIIT Finisher! Short and sweaty!

To get more of these workouts PLUS recipes and tools on how to change the negative cycle you have around fitness SIGN-UP for my Monthly Subscription HERE

Share this post:

Hey friend! I am a wife to an amazing and dedicated Air Force Pilot, as well as a mom to three very beautiful, yet sassy girls. I started my own fitness journey 10 years ago when I knew that being a new mom was not meant to make me feel the way I did.  I knew I was better than the lies I was letting the world tell me.  I set out to change myself for the better and in the process I gained a passion to help other women experience the same joy! I may love to pound out the heavy weights but I also started with simple home workouts that I know work. I have a love for the outdoors as well as traveling. I want to make sure you find that same joy, living a life you love!