So as you all know…I don’t like cardio very much.
Yea….yea…I know I’ve told you this a bazillion times before.
However, cardio conditioning IS an ESSENTIAL part of your workout program.
Put that doesn’t mean you should just throw in some jogging for a few minutes before or after your strength.
It doesn’t mean you should go out and run a bazillion sprints.
It doesn’t mean you should spend hours on the treadmill!
It means you should lay out a plan and make sure that you properly progress yourself through all three energy systems. (Starting to see a theme here?…Maybe a PLANNING or PROGRESSION theme!?!)
You may now be asking yourself…”Three energy systems?”
YEP! There are three different energy systems that you want to work when you do cardio conditioning and each has a separate, but equally valuable, part to play.
By varying which energy zone you use during your conditioning, you can vary the intensity of your workouts to prevent yourself from overtraining.
Ok…so to start, let’s discuss all three energy zones – the aerobic, lactic anaerobic and alactic anaerobic.
The zone all beginners need to start in and the zone that all athletes need to return to keep from overtraining and to keep their base strong is the aerobic zone.
The aerobic zone is our more steady state cardio conditioning (consistent activity for about 2 minutes +). When working in this energy zone, your heart rate should be between about 65%-75% of your max heart rate.
In this zone, you work on improving the strength of your heart and your body’s oxygen delivery systems so that your cells can work to their full capacity.
You don’t need to run for hours to improve your aerobic conditioning.
For example, at the end of your workout, you could do two minutes of battling ropes with less than two minutes of rest between rounds for 5 rounds.
You could do constant locomotion (jogging, shuffling, high knees, skipping) for five minutes. (Trust me your heart rate gets up.)
Or if you do want to dedicate a whole day to conditioning, maybe you do jog, bike or walk slowly for 30 minutes to one hour. It can even be a leisure activity that you use as active rest.
However you decide though to get in your aerobic conditioning make sure that you do in fact do it. Too often people skip this step and go straight to the sprints.
And while I personally prefer sprints and such to longer bouts of cardio, those longer bouts of cardio ARE super important for athletes at all levels.
The next energy system is where we encounter the lactic threshold and start to tap into our anaerobic energy systems. It is called the lactic anaerobic.
Anaerobic energy systems supply us with energy for only short bouts of high intensity activity. Our anaerobic systems supply us with energy through chemical reactions that don’t require oxygen whereas the aerobic system does require oxygen.
This energy system, in which our heart rate is between 80-85% of our max, is best worked when we do a more intense bout of cardio for about 30 seconds to 90 seconds.
It is believed that if you have a higher lactic threshold, you can continue at a higher intensity for longer before tiring, which can be super important for athletes in high intensity endurance sports.
But even if you aren’t an athlete, it is important to include conditioning for this system because it improves our work capacity. The harder and longer we can work before enough lactic acid builds up to fatigue our muscles the more we can get out of some of our very intense workouts!
The third system, the alactic system, is also an anaerobic system.
When working our alactic system our heart rate should be between 86-90% of our max heart rate. To work this system it is best to do any activity that is high intensity and can fatigue you in about 8-12 seconds.
We use tsunamis, sprints and Versa Climber a lot when doing conditioning for this energy zone.
The key here is to pick something that truly fatigues you in 8-12 seconds.
And this zone…well you need to EARN this zone. If you are a beginner, don’t start with this.
Beginners or even athletes who have taken time off may want to spend at least a month doing only aerobic conditioning on top of their strength training.
Once you’ve built up your aerobic base, then move into some lactic anaerobic conditioning. After a few weeks to even a couple of months of training in both, then add in alactic training.
You need to make yourself EARN the next stage of training. You also need to make sure that all systems are strong. If you only do 30-90 second conditioning, you really aren’t making yourself as fit or as strong as you could be.
You need to do all three levels of conditioning if you want to reach your full potential.
NEXT you need to figure in on which days you are going to include what type of training. If you train only three times a week, at the end of your strength training you may want to add one day of level one or aerobic conditioning, one day at level 2 (lactic) and one day at level 3 (alactic).
If you train five days a week, you don’t want to include more than two days of level 3 conditioning and you want to make sure to vary the days so that after a hard day of conditioning you get an easier day of conditioning.
Don’t make yourself train at the same intensity day in and day out! It won’t get you near the results that fluctuations in training intensities will!
And on top of planning out on which days you are going to do what level of conditioning, you must also consider REST intervals.
Each energy system’s requirements are slightly different, but to simplify….
Aerobic – Beginners can have about equal rest to work. Advanced try to make there be as little rest as possible
Anaerobic Systems (lactic and alactic) – Beginners can have about 3 to 5 times rest to work. So if you are a beginner and work for one minute (lactic), you will need between 3-5 minutes of rest. You want to try to be close to fully recovered when you go again. As you become more advanced you can cut your rest down. You may do something like 10 seconds of work (alactic), 20 seconds of rest as you become more advanced.
Make sure that you plan out how much rest you are giving yourself because rest can be a great way to PROGRESS yourself. It is another option not as frequently used as upping the number of rounds that you do. (But it actually may be even MORE beneficial in many cases!)
So even though I don’t love cardio, I do in fact include conditioning in my workouts and I DO make sure to work all three systems.
Now the question is…Do you? What do you consider when planning out your cardio conditioning?
So today I went for a run since I’m actually committed to doing a half marathon this spring…ICK.
Ryan and I have occasionally done the 4 mile run on the beach boardwalk by our house. And honestly, I never have any trouble with the run even if I haven’t been doing any running of any kind.
We even just did it the other week and I cruised along while talking to him. It was fine…not fun…but fine.
BUT while I can even easily survive running 6 miles alongside Ryan, I never really run over 1 mile by myself.
Unlike any other time that I train, I can’t quiet my thoughts when I run for anything over a mile.
I can completely focus and push myself to my limits when I do circuits or weight training or even sprinting, but when I run for longer distances, all I seem to do are focus on any and all little annoyances.
Oh my shin feels a bit tight. Oh my sock is rubbing a little. Oh the headphones aren’t staying in exactly the right spot.
Seriously, I think I focus on every little thing hoping I can just convince myself to stop running.
And the crazy part is, occasionally I will actually get myself to stop.
I’m not actually in pain. I’m not even actually tired.
Usually I’m actually jogging slower than I need to be, but I convince myself that I’m worn out and need to stop because I continue to focus in harder and harder on the little annoyance.
It’s crazy. I can push myself till I’m bleeding or near passing out when doing my circuit, weight training, sprinting workouts, but when I’m running…If I feel my pant leg or shorts leg even rubbing (even if it doesn’t hurt at all), I will use it as an excuse to stop.
For me running for over a mile by myself is a the BIGGEST mental challenge. I need someone there to distract me from my mental whining.
Rarely is my body actually tired when I run. Rarely do I actually get a cramp or stitch. Rarely should I actually ever need to stop. But more often than not, I will cop out when it comes to running.
I will find any excuse to stop. Seriously…any excuse.
My body is fine…my mind is the weak link.
So today I knew I had to suck it up and go for a 5 mile jog by myself. I began all of my mental whining about say…5 seconds in.
Oh the front of my shin is a little tight. Oh my headphones don’t seem to be staying in that well. Oh I think I may be starting a stitch in my side.
But I kept jogging. On my way down the boardwalk, as my the annoyances kept being repeated over and over in my head, I began to psych myself out.
Crap…maybe I should only do the 4 mile run Ryan and I have done. That would be good enough right?
That is when it hit me…
When have I EVER settled for good ENOUGH!?!
So I kept running past our usual turn around spot and headed for the 5 mile half way point.
As I ran back, the negative thoughts began to creep back in. What if I just stop here? Ugh…I’m getting a crap in my side. Why are my headphones not staying perfectly in my ears?
Then I started counting the streets. As they seemed to drag on, I started getting more and more down.
I literally shook my head at myself. What the heck was I doing!?!
My mind was being weak!
I dragged my eyes off the street signs and said to myself, “I WILL do this.”
I then reminded myself that the faster I run, the sooner I will be done.
So I picked up the pace. As I could see myself getting closer and closer to home…as I could see the Newport Pier coming around the corner, I began to sprint.
Just two more streets…
I’m pretty sure the people walking by my house thought I was crazy as I came charging around the corner, but I didn’t care.
I WAS DONE!
I’d made it.
I’d not let my mind give in.
It really is mind over matter. If your mind tells you that you are tired or hurting or uncomfortable, you will stop EVEN if your body really doesn’t need to. If your mind tells you that you CAN do something, you will do it even if you have to overcome stupid annoyances!
So don’t let your mind hold you back!
So last night when I was talking about workouts with a friend I realized how deeply it is ingrained in us that not only are certain exercises the key to weight loss success but so is a certain duration of activity.
She assumed I ran a lot and worked out for long periods of time because I’m “thin” and “in shape.”
Most women assume the same thing. They believe that running and long workouts are the key to weight loss success.
But they are wrong.
For one, I rarely ever run and when I do it usually is sprints or really light jogging if I’m going any distance over a mile.
And two, I don’t think any of my workouts have been anywhere near an hour for months now. Shoot, at least a few times a week my workouts aren’t even longer than 15 minutes!
Running and cardio in general is a key piece of the weight loss puzzle, but it isn’t the only piece. Strength training, and diet, are also very important.
If you don’t do strength training, you won’t add muscle.
Why do you want to add muscle when your goal is weight loss?
Because by adding muscle you burn more fat. When you have more muscle, you burn more calories allowing you to lose weight more easily and keep the weight off!
If you only do chronic cardio, when you take time off and eat normally, you will find the weight goes right back on. Also, you will find that your body will get used to the chronic cardio that you are doing and that you will constantly need to be upping the amount of time you spend running to get the same calorie burn!
BUT if you’ve added muscle, you will find that you won’t gain the weight back near as easily because you’ve raised your metabolic rate by adding muscle which needs more calories to be maintained!
Also, strength training will help prevent injuries that may develop from repetitive motions, such as running, that would hinder your progress or keep you from working out!
So while cardio is important, STRENGTH TRAINING, is actually more key to maintaining a healthy “in shape” weight!
Now to workout length….
Workout intensity is what really matters when you are trying to figure out how long your workout should be.
When I go for a hike or a walk, my workout will be longer. BUT if I workout super intensely, there is no need for my workout to pretty much ever go over 45 minutes.
So it isn’t that long workouts can’t be good, but if you are working out super intensely for an hour, you are probably going to either burn out or start feeling the effects of overtraining, which will actually hinder your progress toward your goal (be your goal weight loss or added strength or merely feeling fitter!).
So I guess to sum up what I’m saying is there is no one form of exercise or a certain length of time you have to spend working out to reach your fitness goals!
Variety is key!
(HMMMMM….Variety is key….That sounds familiar….I was going to link to another post here but there are too many preaching this on this site to pick just one! :-))
So my new AWESOME job that I’m so STOKED about (they all say “stoked” here…it sounds as weird to me as “wicked” originally did…) has tasks that we complete that help us develop as leaders, individuals and trainers.
I looked down the list and I was excited until I saw “Running” as one of the tasks.
Have I mentioned before that I really really dislike running anything more than a sprint!?!
Well I DO!
And I thought that the running would be the worst of it (and by worst I don’t mean necessarily the hardest…I just mean the thing I dislike the most.)
BUT it isn’t.
I had my first real intense encounter with the VersaClimber yesterday.
It is now my new “favorite” cardio machine. It used to be the erg (oh how I love/hate the erg), but now it is most definitely the VersaClimber.
Completing all of the VersaClimber tasks is going to be absolutely miserable in that way that I love.
So I guess maybe the running actually still is the worst thing since it isn’t just sprints…
What piece of cardio equipment do you love to hate? Have you had an “encounter” with the VersaClimber!?!
P.S. Don’t expect this blog to change from lifting to cardio just because I went to a new gym! Killer weight workouts are still to come! 🙂
- Lifting heavy weights will make women bulk up. Uhm..if you’ve read one post on this site, I hope you don’t believe this any more. Weight lifting won’t make women look bulky unless they are taking steroids! Weight lifting will actually make women look more toned since muscle takes up less space than fat (so you can actually look smaller and trimmer if you have muscle!). Weight lifting also has a ton of health benefits such as stronger bones so don’t skip it!
- Cardio is better for weight loss. NOPE! I just posted a great article about this AND Brian is a great testament to the fact that you can lose more weight and look fitter if you just do weight lifting! Brian has lost 12 pounds over the last 3 1/2 weeks doing absolutely NO cardio! (P.S. Congrats Brian!)
- Taking in fewer calories than you expend (calories in vs. calories out) is all that matters when you are trying to lose weight. AH! If you eat a ton of peanut m&ms but don’t consume more than 1,500 calories, you will probably lose weight on the scale, but you won’t be healthy and you will probably not have great body composition (you will be “skinny fat.”). If you eat well, you don’t have to count calories, you will lose weight and you will have great body composition.
- Eating late at night can make you gain weight. It doesn’t matter when you consume the calories, if you need the calories. You won’t gain weight JUST because you ate late at night. With Intermittent Fasting, I only really ate before bed, and I lost weight. As long as you aren’t consuming extra calories during the day, it doesn’t matter when you eat the calories you need!
- I can “spot reduce” problem areas by doing exercises specific to those body parts. HA! I wish! It doesn’t work that way unfortunately. You can’t control where you lose fat from, but if you lift heavy and eat right you will get a healthy, lean body!
- If I can’t workout hard enough or long enough, I may as well just skip it that day. NOOOOO! Short workouts can be good for you! And pushing through a workout even when you don’t feel like you can give it your all can still produce results! Even a workout at 60% effort can help you achieve results in the long run!
- You will burn more fat if you exercise for longer at a lower intensity (within the “fat burning” zone). This should be a whole post on its own…the fat burning zone, unfortunately, doesn’t exist. While walking is good for you, lifting to build muscle is better for fat loss. More muscle equals more fat burning! So start lifting to lose fat!
- Exercising a lot is all you need to achieve your weight loss goals. As much as I would love to tell my clients that all they need to do to lose weight is exercise, it isn’t. Diet really is 80% of the weight loss battle! Working out can help you keep the weight off and burn extra calories during your weight loss battle, but it won’t melt the pounds away. You need a clean diet to really lose weight and make all the work you do when you are working out really pay off! 🙂
- All you need to do is cardiovascular training to be in shape. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! If you believe that, you are on the wrong blog!
- Women who have muscle and can lift more than men aren’t sexy. BS!!! We are so super sexy! AND don’t you forget it!
So I found out last week that Jillian Michaels hates running and I 100% agree with that sentiment. I run as little as possible and if I have to run, I prefer to do sprints. I just get too freaking bored running long distances.
BUT running is good for you. So I force myself to do it. I usually force myself to run by including it in a workout – like in crossfit workouts like the Murph (1 mile, 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 squats, 1 mile) or the Small (3 rounds of 1,000m rowing, 50 burpees, 50 box jumps and 800m running). But sometimes I do manage to just do a cardio day like yesterday.
Yesterday I actually did what are probably my two least favorite things – running and rowing. I’ve already mentioned I hate running, but rowing is also up there among the things I hate most. BUT unlike running, I force myself to row at least a few times a week. Boredom isn’t a factor when I row – surviving is. Rowing is probably one of the hardest activities for me, which is why I force myself to do it. I’m determined to get better at it.
Anyway, yesterday I did a workout that included both running and rowing and was purely cardio aside from the tough ab circuit before. I’ve included both the abs and the cardio workout below. Even Man Bicepers need to do cardio even if we do like lifting weights more! 🙂
Abs: (Repeat circuit 3 times)
15 Knees to Elbows (Hanging from a pull up bar bring your knees up to your elbows.)
10 each side Cable Cross Rotation with Press (Put the cable as low as it can go. Using the rope attachment pull from low on your right , pull across your body and up toward your shoulder rotating your body so that you can press the cable up and out on the left side.)
15 TRX Knees to Chest (Holding a push up position with your feet in the TRX band, bring your knees in toward you chest without raising your butt up.)
10 each side Russian Twists (Use weight!)
Walk 2 minutes
Run 7 minutes
On the third round:
Walk 2 minutes
Run 7 minutes