How I Learned to LOVE Cardio

My husband often lovingly teases me because I am nearly incapable of maintaining a constant pace for any endurance activity. It doesn’t matter if it’s running, biking, swimming, skiing—my mode of operation is to take off, go as fast as I can until I get tired and then walk for a while until I’m ready to go again. Any time Adam and I go running together, it’s a classic tortoise and hare shakedown. I sprint ahead, wear myself out and then struggle along behind Adam for the rest of the run.

Part of my adverse reaction to steady-state-cardio is that I am a sprinter to my core. As a swimmer, my best events were the ones that were finished in a minute or less. The main reason i don't like cardio, however, is that I just get bored. I have friends, my husband included, who can head out for a run or a ride and maintain the same pace for an hour or more while having an awesome time! I am not one of those people. I need an adventure, a challenge or a distraction to keep going at a constant pace.

Low-intensity steady-state-cardio (LISS) is generally defined as exercise that allows you to maintain a constant, elevated heart rate for an extended period of time. Unlike high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which trains multiple heart rate zones and pushes your max heart rate, LISS helps build your long-term aerobic fitness level and increases your cardiovascular endurance. LISS training is enormously important for keeping your heart healthy, aging gracefully and maintaining your ability to manage all the demands life puts on your body such as walking up stairs, chasing your kids around the house, etc.

I want all of those benefits!

But if you’re like me, knowing something is good for me doesn’t necessarily translate to me actually doing it.

Over the past 3-or so years, I’ve learned to not only thoroughly enjoy LISS, but to also eagerly look forward to those days! This mindset shift occurred not because I’ve forced myself to like jogging, but because I’ve found a way to use LISS as a guaranteed joy booster in my days.

This is the WHOLE premise of Playful Fitness: find your joy and end up healthy, instead of, get healthy so you can be happy.


Here are my two best strategies for LOVING LISS training.

1. Rolling hills. For me to get excited about going for a walk, jog or run, there has got to be an element of adventure involved. There is something magical about rolling hills, they are beautiful, fun and there is a draw to know what’s just up over the next hill. Trails are the best for this. The soft dirt is not only easy on your joints but there will always be that next curve, that next little hill that will keep you going. It’s SO fun! No matter where you live, there is a trail somewhere, maybe in a park in your city or maybe just on the outskirts of town.

It’s the inspirational wonder of natural beauty that keeps me going.

Even on trails I’ve been on 100 times, seasons change the view, as does time of day. An 8:00 am walk is a totally different kind of beauty than a 5:30 walk during golden hour, spring completely different than fall. I LOVE being outside, and that delight pulls me into health and fitness because the beauty that lies just beyond my backyard keeps my legs going step-after-step. When I get out on a trail, suddenly, LISS is the BEST kind of daily adventure I can get.

2. Podcasts & Books On Tape! I love learning, but often my days are too full to just sit down and listen to a pod-cast beginning to end. LISS affords me a rare opportunity to get totally lost in the adventure of learning something new with no other distractions. It’s the best!

I’ll often cue up a list of podcasts I’m interested in at the beginning of the week. Then when it’s time to go to go for a run or a walk instead of fear and dread, I feel a rush of excitement because I get to listen to that one podcast I’ve been looking forward to hearing all week!

Whether you’re a nerd like me or not, there are a million podcasts to fit pretty much any personality and interest. If you need a suggestion, leave a comment and I’ll give you some of my favorites! Or if you have some favorites, I’m always looking for new material and would love to hear what gets you fired-up. Books on tape are also a great option! Podcasts and rolling hills are not mutually exclusive either. Combine them and get a double whammy of fun!

 So if you’re like me and walking or jogging sounds terrible, try finding a beautiful trail, a podcast or book on tape that sparks excitement. I’m willing to bet that after a couple rounds, your walk/jog/run/bike will become a highlight of your week. Give it a try this week!

Cheers to trails, to learning and healthy, happy bodies!




 P.S. Here are some of the other benefits of LISS (Low-Intensity-Steady-State-Cardio

  1. LISS improves creativity according to the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 2014

  2. Another study found that walkers in New York City lost 2% body fat in one month, averaging less than a mile just from walking to work and home daily. 
  3. If you’re into hiking or treadmills, walking on a 15% incline at 3.5 mph burns the same number of calories as running 8-minute miles. (Adam and I even tested it on side-by-side treadmills. Identical).
  4. Jogging for just 30 minutes can burn upwards of 300 calories. That adds up quick.
  5. LISS burns more fat per calorie proportionally than HIIT. (HIIT burns more calories total so it also burns more fat, but fat needs oxygen to burn so LISS is a fat burning machine!)
  6. To list a few more, any form of stead-state-cardio has been shown to help improve mood, increase metabolism, aid in recovery from more challenging workouts and help reduce stress.
  7. Lastly, you can do it ANYWHERE, ANY TIME! If you know you won’t have time after work but have a 30-minute lunch break, go for a walk around your building, then eat at your desk after. If you’re out of town and don’t have a gym, most hotels have a treadmill or a road nearby you can walk or run on, plus there is no better way to explore than on foot.