Steady state cardio probably won’t feel “hard”, and that’s a good thing. Ideally, steady state cardio will make you feel like you can go at the pace forever without stopping. It won’t be making you feel tired or winded because that’s the idea behind steady state cardio: it’s a routine you can continue for 30 to 90 minutes while maintaining a steady pace, steady breathing, and a steady heart rate.
The idea behind steady state cardio is that it’s going to increase your endurance and stamina while also improving your heart’s health. That’s right: the more often you use steady state cardio, the more efficient your heart will be at pumping blood throughout your body.
Many of us have been programmed to think that cardio is only “working” if we are covered in sweat and left panting and keeled over at the end of our session. While that may be the end result of an insane HIIT session, it should not at all be what it’s like for you after a good steady state cardio session.
When you complete a steady state cardio workout, you should feel rejuvenated and even more energized than before. You should be refreshed from the activity, which got your blood pumping, but not exhausted, dizzy, or winded. If you feel any of these things, it’s because you went too hard and/or too far. You are not going to experiencing the heart healthy benefits of steady state cardio because you aren’t participating in it correctly.
If you think you are going too hard during your steady state cardio sessions, the simple answer is to slow down and decrease the difficulty. If you’re swimming, try an easy stroke at a comfortably pace that you feel that you could sustain forever. If you’re cycling, avoid inclines and take an easy winding trail at a casual speed. If you’re walking, just pick a path that you can meander down without feeling like you’re straining to make it.
Steady state cardio should make you feel like the workout itself is near effortless. Although you can up the difficulty somewhat, your heart rate should stay between 120 and 150 beats per minute for the entire time you’re participating in the activity. That’s the range in which you’ll get to experience all the positive benefits associated with steady state cardio that those HIIT lovers will simply never truly understand the power of.