Fitness First – Rockville will be spending the next three days addressing the individual corners of the training pyramid. We are excited to finally answer some of the common questions we get from our members and guests, and perhaps answer some questions that have not been asked aloud yet.
The First Corner
The first exercise essential we are going to address is Cardio. Everyone has an opinion about Cardio training. Everyone has a friend that says to do this or that. The internet is full of articles on Cardio Training. Don’t worry, we are not going to tell you it is all wrong or right.
What we will do is address why it is essential to your health, and what role it should play in your workout.
Cardio is ESSENTIAL for weight loss. Cardio increases the health of your heart and lungs. Cardio has been linked to reductions in stress and tension. We all know this, but what else does cardio have going on?
- Cardiovascular Training is easy to adjust for the individual – by changing duration, intensity, resistance, or frequency, any individual may fine tune their Cardiovascular Training to their individual needs without additional equipment or facilities.
- You burn more calories at one time – Cardio training burns more calories in a shorter time than resistance training alone. This calorie burn is how you guarantee the calorie deficit that is needed for weight loss.
- You can do Cardio exercises more frequently and with less rest – With resistance training, you must give your muscles and body time to rest, rebuild, and grow. Cardio training can be performed up to 6 days a week with little to no rest days. This allows for greater gains, but also more schedule flexibility.
Cardiovascular Training is Cardiovascular Training. This question is tricky, but common around the gym. The honest answer is you should do whatever cardio exercise you enjoy. Perhaps we should explain.
Cardiovascular Training has a number of components that determine what the ideal exercise for you is. If there is an exercise you like, you can always adjust the components of that exercise to make it meet your needs. Here are the components we keep mentioning.
- Duration – More commonly known as, How Long? If running for 20 minutes burns less calories than you need to burn, you can run for 30 minutes and burn more. Simple enough. However, if you are already exercising for 45 minutes or more, you should adjust the other components before you increase duration.
- Intensity – or How Hard. Intensity refers more to the strain placed on your heart by the exercise, and how high you get your heart rate. Higher Heart Rate burns more calories. Be careful when adjusting this component. Overly intense Cardio can lead to multiple types of injury.
- Impact – How much does your body contact solid surfaces, and how hard? Running, Jumping, etc. is considered higher Impact than biking or swimming. For individuals with injuries, this component is the most important. High Impact activities tend to burn more calories than low impact.
- Body Utilization – How much of your body moves and is used? Step, Zumba, and Swimming use more of your body in their execution. More body parts moving means more energy spent. This component is an easy one to fine tune for additional calories burned.
Every Cardio exercise is made of these elements, and each can be adjusted for more or less calorie burn vs. strain on the body. What this means is that every exercise can be considered equal. Since the individual is not universal, the best Cardio exercise is always going to be The One That You Enjoy and Burns Enough Calories For You.
Re-Phrasing this question, How Many Times Per Week Should I Do Cardio? The best answer for this question is another question. What are your fitness goals? This is why….
Are you trying to Gain or Lose Weight? – Cardio plays a very different role in weight Gain and Weight Loss. When lowering your weight, cardio needs to burn a set amount of calories, and should become far more frequent. When gaining weight, your concern is minimal calorie burning, while still exercising your heart and lungs.
How experienced are you with Cardio? – If you have never hiked for 30 minutes before, you will need to rest after your cardio for the first few weeks. If you have run 10ks in the past, then you will be more familiar with maintaining your heart rate, monitoring muscle fatigue, and endurance levels.
How High is the Impact of your Cardio? – High impact and high intensity cardio activities can take more of a toll on your body and have more opportunity for injury. If you are stressing your joints during your cardio, you will need more time to recover, however these activities will burn more calories. A typical trade off.
Do you have any Injuries that should be considered? – Shin splints, injured joints, surgery recovery, etc all play a role in both what type of cardio, and how often. It would be dangerous to jump into a 6 days a week program, if your surgery recovery is only a week past. This directly influences the intensity and impact of any cardio exercise.
In short, being honest about where your cardio knowledge and fitness are right now, and where you want it to be will answer the How Much Should I Do question. Forgive the pun, but you must know where the starting and finish line are, before you can determine what race you are running.
In closing, any exercise program will include cardiovascular exercise as one of the primary components. What is most important is to know what Cardio is doing for you, and how to make it work towards your goals. Above all, do not mistake cardio for the type of exercise that burns fat. Instead, think of it as the exercise that uses up the rest of your calories for the day.
Second, never assume that the cardio a friend or neighbor does is right for you. Ask yourself the questions listed above, and once you have some solid answers, ask a professional. There is a lot going on with cardio, and you will need to find the right fit for you if you intend on making it a successful habit. Until next time, see you at the Gym.