Why do we do it?
There is so much confusion about cardio and whether or not you should be doing it. I often get asked by all of my clients “How much cardio should I be doing and what type of cardio is the best?” With all the fad workouts and options it can be hard to really know what type of cardio is best for you. This is more of a personal decision and varies with each individual. One thing to keep in mind is anything you do for your body you must be consistent.
Some questions I ask my clients are:
- Do you enjoy cardio?
- What piece of equipment do you like to use?
- And how much time have you set aside to commit to your goal?
These questions will give us a basic idea of where to start so we can design a realistic plan for you to reach the results you desire. Also keep in mind that anytime you are moving your heart rate is either increasing or decreasing. Movement is cardio. Lifting weights and running both work on your energy systems. It’s important to understand that our concern here is the cardiovascular system, not the muscular system. Think about a marathon runner verses someone who does crossfit. Both athletes are doing a form of cardio, their heart rates are varying and their bodies are moving.
Cardio and it’s purpose:
“Cardio” is exercise of the heart which is directly associated with your metabolism (energy). When we are increasing our heart rates we are using different energy systems in the body. As a result, we burn fat or carbs/sugar. Most of us assume the harder we work and the higher the intensity means we are burning more fat, this is not always true. While the machine reading or your heart rate monitor shows the number of burned calories increasing as you make it more challenging for yourself, where these calories come from is more valuable information; i.e. the marathon runner vs. the crossfitter or sprinter. Have you ever noticed that after that super intense workout you are suddenly starving and craving sweets or starches? And other times with less intense workouts you fill up fast and feel satisfied? This is how our bodies tell us to refuel with the energy we just used. Lower intensity will typically burn more fat than higher intensity. We want to be fat burners so we can do more work and feel less tired.
Now, with that soaking in, it’s also important to understand why both low and high intensity cardio is necessary for an effective program. Lower heart rate zones will ideally burn more fat and working in those zones will increase the amount of fat burned. Upper heart rate zones (3 and up) will not only increase your bodies ability to burn more fat at rest but there are also benefits like, promoting a positive hormone response and improving your bodies ability to intake more oxygen which leads to burning more fat! An effective cardio program should look something like 2 days of low intensity and another 1-2 days of intervals in your upper heart rate zones. Each of us have different heart strengths and our zones vary. Look into your local health club to see if they offer Metabolic Testing. All Life Time Fitness clubs do to both members and non-members.
Work It Out
We want to take out as much guess work as possible! A low intensity workout looks something like 20 mins in your lower zones while a higher intensity workout can be short bursts of getting into your upper zones while allowing time to recover between each burst. These are basic principles, please keep in mind every person is different and has a unique workout history. Age, sex, weight, activity level, and nutrition all are factors in how our body adapts and where we currently are. For that reason, I cannot give you a number or specific regimen to go by. If you don’t have the accessibility to get your individualized information try starting with a heart rate monitor. Most of the companies will have a basic auto default setting. Good luck and keep moving!
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