Everyone is doing cardio these days. From crossfitters to runners to health club members to all the other folks who are huffing and puffing away at the elliptical or treadmill, everyone is doing cardio. There is no denying it. We’ve seen the research. We’ve got the polls. The cardio’s nearly ubiquitous. What’s this all about then?
If you’re working out for cardio and your gym class is going great, but your legs are aching and you’re thinking “I wish I could get some cardio without all this pain”, well, now you can. And even if you can’t seem to get in a cardio-only workout, you can still reap the health benefits of cardio with your resistance training. In this article, we’ll clear up some of the common cardio confusion, including:
No matter what country I’m in, no matter what type of client or athlete I’m working with, they will definitely ask for cardio.
- How much cardio should I do?
- When is the best time to do cardio?
- I want to get slimmer – should I do more cardio or more weight training?
- I hate cardio. Do I need to train for hours to reach my goals?
- I do up to 2 hours of cardio a day – what’s next?
I don’t think there is any confusion about cardio. I think the cardio is just not being used properly.
Most people know what they are doing and why, but they are using cardio in the wrong way.
I’ve been in law enforcement for over ten years. I have often lectured to school groups on substance use/abuse.
Recently I realized that there were strong similarities between the inappropriate use of drugs and alcohol in this population and the inappropriate use of cardio in the fitness group. It is pervasive and based on ignorance and fear.
Don’t get me wrong when I say ignorant – don’t confuse ignorance with stupidity. Ignorant simply means uneducated, uninformed or ignorant in a particular field. My goal is to tell you how to use cardio correctly.
No more cardio ignorance!
That’s a good question to start with:
What do we mean by the word cardio?
If you’re asking about cardio, you need to be more specific. The entire industry, especially the print media (fitness magazines), needs to start talking about cardio the right way and use a common language.
Cardio is short for cardiovascular, which refers to the lungs, heart and related systems.
I assume someone asking about cardio is referring to longer, regular exercises with repetitive movements of low to moderate intensity. This can be done on any cardio machine, such as an exercise bike, rower, elliptical or Stairmaster, but it can also be done without any machine, for example. For example, walking or jogging (depending on the person’s physical condition).
For most people, cardio involves going outside and walking around a bit to get their heart rate up. It’s not wrong, but it’s not as accurate as it could be.
Energy systems are critical to understanding the effects of cardio
But not all types of cardio are created equal. To understand why and how types of endurance can differ, you need a basic understanding of the body’s three energy systems:
- anaerobic a-lactate
- Anaerobic Lactic Acid
The main difference between the energy systems is the duration and intensity of the training, as well as the type of energy source the body uses for the activity.
What many people call cardio – long movements at relatively low intensity – works on a third system, the aerobic energy system.
It has its place in training, especially if you’re an endurance athlete or looking for active recovery – or even just a good way to relax with a nice run in the great outdoors.
But contrary to what we were told about the craze for aerobic exercise in the 1980s, aerobic activity is not always the best choice for fat loss, athletic performance or body composition.
I prefer anaerobic exercises (the first two energy systems) for myself and my clients. For me it’s all about results, functionality and balance. I also love the most effective and efficient use of training time.
Aerobic exercises can play a role in achieving physical development and/or fitness goals, but they must be used correctly.
To learn more about energy systems, check out All About HIIT.
Using cardio to your advantage
First, let’s look at 3 ways to use cardio or anything else:
- USAGE – Users understand the role of cardio training and properly integrate it into their overall training plan or program.
- Ignorance – This is where ignorance comes in. Users do not know or understand why they are using Cardio and therefore use it inappropriately and incorrectly.
- ABSURD – This is where we get into the realm of self-sabotaging behavior. Users know and understand the role of cardio. They know and understand – and have experienced – the consequences of abuse. Yet people continue to abuse cardio. Deep-seated emotional problems are present here, as well as disturbed thinking and behavior. This person may need the advice and help of more than just a personal trainer. It is an addiction that ignores logic, knowledge and experience. (To find out if you belong to this group, browse through our handy checklist).
Proper use of cardio Example
I prefer to work with people who use cardio the right way and can help them use it differently or better.
An example would be someone 16 weeks away from a peak date, such as. B. a wedding or a physics competition, starts with a cardio progression.
I would look at things like natural carbohydrate tolerance, metabolism, and other individualization tools like blood type and biosignature profile, and maybe suggest they wait 6-9 weeks to begin cardioprogression.
Or I can advise them to switch from straight bikes and treadmills to road bikes and outdoor walking. They use cardio the right way, but I help them use it better or differently so they can continue to get results or get more optimal results.
Incorrect use of cardio Example
Of course people come to me for advice, so I don’t say no to clients just because not everything works out right away! After all, the media tells them to be cardio junkies.
I also like working with people who don’t use cardio properly, because they often react when they do: I had no idea! I thought I had to do more and more cardio to get slimmer! This will save me time and make me feel even better.
They have no aversive or unhealthy attachment to the cardiovascular system and fully comply with my recommendations, having gained a better understanding of the role of the cardiovascular system, its place in the energy system and its effective use.
Example: Someone who does 30-minute strength training three days a week and five 40-minute endurance training sessions a week.
I turned this idea around and had them do five 40-minute strength training sessions a week, followed by 12 minutes of constant-speed cardio or interval after each session.
This reduces your cardio time and increases the amount of strength training that improves your metabolism and boosts your hormones – so you get better results in less time!
Abuse of cardio: two examples
Here are two examples of cardio abuse. I think they are an example of how people can develop an unhealthy attachment to cardio and continue to abuse it despite knowledge and evidence of the consequences.
A very tall, slim client did 60 minutes of cardio almost every day at 40% of her heart rate while her goal was to look leaner, slimmer and more muscular. In fact, she was an ultra-marathoner who competed on average every 3 weeks! In her case, she abused cardio because she was trying to lose weight.
She also consumed too few calories to support such activity – about 1,500 per day on average – and her carbohydrate intake was very low. I find it amazing that her body still works after all that abuse!
Oddly enough, she didn’t even lose weight.
Neither the choice of activity, nor the duration or intensity matched her goal, but it was very hard for her to give up, even with all the data and information about what would be more appropriate and why. She was still able and unwilling to give up and did not change the length or frequency of her run.
In another case, a client, a skinny, underweight man, wanted to gain more mass and muscle, but he didn’t want to stop running and taking cardio kickboxing classes.
He refused to change, even though he had studied kinesiology and understood the different training methods, muscle fibers and energy systems (and that his current training program did not match his goals)!
So again, despite the knowledge, insight and evidence, people who abuse cardio – like drug addicts – persist.
If you spend many hours here each week, you may have a problem.
What does the cardio switch look like?
Here is a recent comparison of the biosignature profile of a client who initially abused Cardio.
The first report shows his first performance as a cardio abuser.
The second report shows the progress she has made after 1 month of implementing a system that gets the most out of cardio. In his case, that was 6 to 12 minutes (!) of cardio after each of his five weekly strength training sessions.
|Departure||After 1 month||Difference|
|Weight||120 pounds||116 pounds.||-4 pounds.|
|body fat %.||12.1%||9.1%||-3%|
|Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR)||0.9||0.8||-0.1|
Here is a diagram showing the changes in the folds of her skin. Note that he has lost 13 mm of his total skin folds!
She not only lost fat, but all her hormonal ratios improved – her androgen levels rose, her thyroid function improved and her carbohydrate tolerance improved.
His face filled up. Prolonged cardio training can make your face look skinny. (Ladies, be careful. If you do cardio to make yourself feel good, you may be doing the exact opposite).
All this in one month.
How did she do that? Simple. She reduced her endurance training from one to two hours per week to less than one hour total for aerobic and anaerobic training combined.
Again: Less time, better results. Good.
Christa’s optimal cardio exercise system
So you’re ready to give up running on the treadmill for hours. That’s it! How do you plan to do this?
1. Determine your purpose.
What are you really trying to accomplish with this cardio?
Lose fat? Stay slim? Improve athletic performance?
If you’re not an endurance athlete, you probably don’t need those long low-intensity workouts.
2. Start a program.
Once you have set your goals, create a schedule to achieve them.
Give yourself enough time to reach your goal in a healthy way, but not too much time, so you don’t lose motivation and reach the top too soon. A period of twelve to sixteen weeks is optimal.
Choose a target date and mark it in the calendar. Then work backwards to create a training plan.
3. Eliminate ALL cardio activities
The first phase of your plan should include little or no cardio.
Oh yes, I can hear the cries of fear. What? ! I run two hours a day! If I drink it all, I’ll get fat, you say.
That’s how it should be. You need to let your body reset. The body you get from not doing cardio is real.
The body is trying to find balance somehow. Taking the initiative allows you to control the situation, not the situation you control.
If you do more and more cardio – longer and more often – you will either fail (hormonally, metabolically, emotionally and/or situationally) or get sick or injured.
The body always gets what it needs. The sooner we understand this, the sooner we will be a balanced and healthy society.
Whether it’s a hormonal setback, an injury or your choice, the NO CARDIO rule becomes a reality. So you choose it and you control it.
Proper cardio progressions will be more effective if you get the cardio out first. You need to create the conditions in your body for successful cardio. And you won’t achieve that by doing cardio until your body falls apart. Give it a shot.
4. Strength training FIRST
The most important part of any exercise program is creating stimuli for your muscles. Lifting weights. Strength training has a positive effect on your hormones and metabolism, allowing you to develop strength, structure and function that you can use for years to come.
First, decide how many days a week you will do resistance training.
Apply the reverse rule here (i.e. the opposite of what you did before that didn’t work). If you z. B. Exercise twice a day, every day, then start your 12-16 week plan with 4-5 days a week and work your way up. If you only lift weights two or three days a week, double your efforts.
5. Anaerobic work second
Now add an anaerobic or interval progression. Start with one 12-minute interval workout per week and increase to three 20- to 30-minute sessions per week.
The duration of the interval can range from 15 to 45 seconds, and the rest depends on the intensity and length of the interval.
Sampling intervals :
- 15 seconds of high intensity work, e.g. B. a burpee or 100m sprint on the track – 1:00 REST – Repeat until total time is up.
- 30 second jerks on an upright bike at moderate to high intensity – 1:30 REST – Repeat until total time is up.
- 45 seconds MEDIUM-HIGH Throwing or pushing tires on the elliptical – 2:00 – 3:00 REST – Repeat until total time is up.
The above progression is just one example of the use of different modalities and variables. You can also choose a form of anaerobic activity and gradually build it up each week by increasing the intensity, frequency and volume and/or shortening the rest periods between sets.
6. Now… Finally… it’s time for cardio
We have now covered the elements that produce optimal results: strength training and anaerobic work. Only then should you add the cardio component.
Some people don’t even need cardio training at all because they are metabolic furnaces – genetically gifted machines that respond very well to strength training and anaerobic work.
However, people who have had weight problems for most of their lives and who do not consider themselves genetically advantaged or lucky will benefit from additional cardio training. But remember, this is an incremental measure that is part of the overall plan.
7. Assess and re-assess – follow the evidence
Please note the lectures during this period. Regularly measure your body composition, athletic performance and health to see if the program is working for you.
First, ask yourself:
- Why am I doing this?
- Am I using the cardio correctly?
- Is what I’m doing really helping me reach my goals (as evidenced by objective data like body fat tests or tape measures)?
- Maybe I didn’t use the cardio properly because I didn’t have enough information?
- Or do I have an unhealthy attachment to cardio that I need to explore further?
If you belong to that last group – the cardio abusers – there’s good news. High intensity training is a very effective way to overcome mental barriers. I even call them barrier breaking workouts.
The time and effort you put into high intensity anaerobic training will not only help you overcome a physical plateau, but also a mental one.
Stop overdoing it, start using and developing your cardio protocols properly, and you’ll see real progress in your physique and overall health.
No need to thank me for the time and energy I saved you. Don’t forget to post pictures of your beautiful body after about 16 weeks!
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Frequently Asked Questions
What is cardio confusion?
Cardio confusion is a term used to describe the feeling of being overwhelmed by too many choices when it comes to cardio. What is the difference between cardio confusion and overwhelm? Cardio confusion is a feeling of being overwhelmed by too many choices when it comes to cardio. Overwhelm is a feeling of being unable to cope with the amount of choices available.
Is 30 minutes of cardio 3 times a week enough?
No, 30 minutes of cardio is not enough.
How do you recover from too much cardio?
If you are doing too much cardio, it is important to take a break from it. You can do this by taking a day off or by doing less cardio for the rest of the week.
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