Cardio: A Love Hate Relationship
When it comes to working out, I tend to go back and forth on what I like. Some weeks I only look forward to upper body, other times I want to just jump on the treadmill and zone out. But sadly, most of the time, I absolutely DREAD cardio. Thinking about spending the next 45 minutes on a machine makes me depressed. I would rather do just about anything. Keeping yourself distracted by listening to music or watching TV really does help, but cardio is boring stuff.
In this blog post I want to address some common misconceptions as well as explain some things that I have learned in my experience.
First thing is first; you DO NOT need to do cardio 6 days a week. That is just absurd. Lots of ladies ask me how much cardio I do expecting that answer but I surprise them by saying that I only do cardio 2-3 days a week, IF that. Stressing your body with that much cardio is very harmful. It eats away into your muscles reversing all your hard work. Also, if it wasn’t bad enough, lots of girls think you need to be on the treadmill for 1 hour or more. Let me enlighten you. You do not need to be doing cardio for that long. Sure, if you want to go for a nice long bike ride or walk on the beach for 2-3 hours that’s fine but its not high intensity. When you do cardio you want to make sure you are working hard. If you’re not sweating, you’re not working hard enough.
There are many things you can do for cardio. The basic is 40-45 minute steady state cardio. This means going on any machine and staying at a constant pace. If you keep your heart rate low, this will emphasize fat burning. Keeping your heart rate higher generally puts you in the “cardio zone”, meaning you are working out your heart. Target heart rates for each type of aerobic exercise vary depending on age so you can look up the appropriate heart rate values. Sure, they both burn calories but they target different parts of the body. You can alternate between these two cardio workouts throughout the week. I did this for about 3 months and it was good. I learned to love cardio and actually looked forward to spending some “me” time alone on the treadmill but after a while, just like anything, it got boring again.
So what did I do? Well, my research of course. I started to read about “Fasted Cardio”, “Hill Sprints”, and “HIIT Cardio”. I decided to try them all out. First thing I tried was fasted cardio. Instead of my usual steady state 45 minutes 3 days a week, I was going to do fasted cardio every day for 1 week for 20 minutes. For those of you who don’t know, fasted cardio is cardio done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. It has been said to be the best kind of cardio because your body burns the fat instead of the last meal you had. There are lots and lots of opinions on it so make sure you do your own research and see if it’s for you. My review on fasted cardio was great! I really felt the fat melting away. I didn’t feel faintish before or afterwards which I found many people had problems with. I decided that I would work it into my workout routine every once in a while.
When the weather got nice I decided to go and try out hill sprints. This means I ran up the hill at a fairly fast pace and when I reached the top, I would turn around and walk down. I would repeat this 5X (it was a very large hill). If you have smaller hills you can do this 10x. This workout is amazing. It is no walk in the park (punny, I know). It’s some hard work! I thought I had pretty good endurance but it’s a whole other kind of workout. It helps tones your legs, calves and glutes as well as your cardio. It’s not something you do every day because it can be hard on the knees. After doing this once a week for a month, I felt my legs becoming firm and toned. I hope to continue this in the future! In the winter this workout can be done on the treadmill at a very high incline.
Lastly, I tried out HIIT cardio. HIIT cardio stands for “High Intensity Interval Training”. This basically means you work your very hardest for 30 seconds to 1 minute, getting your heart rate very high then bringing it right down for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. This can be done on any machine as well as when doing a boot camp workout. You can do jumping jacks for 30 seconds straight and then walk in place for 30 seconds. I recommend repeating this movement for 20-25 minutes. This is one of the most challenging kinds of cardio to do but I would say, the most rewarding. Not only did I see amazing results but it keeps cardio interesting which is so hard to do! You are constantly thinking and moving which doesn’t give you much time to think about if it’s boring or not. Another great benefit about HIIT cardio is you continue burning calories for the next 24 hours!!! Working out without working out is the best kind of workout :) An example of the HIIT cardio I do is a 5 minute warm up on the treadmill at 3.5 speed. When it hits 6 minutes I raise the incline to 3.0 and the speed to 6.0 and run at a constant pace for 2 minutes. Once it reaches 8 minutes, I lower it back to 3.5. I repeat this for 20 minutes and then do a 5-minute cool down at 3.0. This took me a few months to reach so please do it at your own pace.
I hope this opened your mind to the wonders of cardio! Remember, everyone is different, so experiment with all the options and choose which works best for you.