Perhaps one of the most over rated, over done and over estimated form of physical exercise.
But it is also one of those physical exercises that contributes to the surge of endorphines.. the feel good hormones.
And as gross as this may sound, it feels good to finish a workout off glistening with sweat… it’s like tangible, damp evidence of all efforts.
Buuut on some days, cardio? How about cardiNO.
As much as cardio is good, it can become tediously boring and can quickly lead to physical plateaus.
running endlessly to nowhere facing a blank wall again, great.
cycling for hours on end on a stationary bike, woohoo.
Now before you get turned off from cardio exercise, let me stress the importance of cardiovascular training.
We get so caught up training the muscles we can see, like our guns (biceps brachii), those pecs (pectoralis muscles), and the peach gains (gluteus maximus),
that we often lose sight of the most important visceral muscle that is out of sight- our heart.
It is a small muscle with a biologically massive workload. Imagine, a small muscle the size of your fist, contracting continuously at 70 beats per minute, with an average stroke volume of 70ml of richly oxygenated blood with every beat.
If we do the math, your heart will pump around 4.9 to 5 litres of blood through your arteries every minute (cardiac output).
And this output can double, triple and even increase by 5 fold during physical exertion… or in our cases, training in the gym, playing a sport, climbing stairs.
Now with this in mind, we apply the basics of muscle strengthening.
To get a stronger muscle we need to adopt:
Training frequency- forcing your to adapt to more workload and increase in strength.
a lower repitition set with higher intensities (or weight)- to facilitate muscle hypertrophy (growth) and power.
If we can religiously hit the gym and train for superficial muscle growth, why not do the same with our heart muscles?
We certainly don’t need a physically larger heart, but we do need a physically active and agile heart muscle to sustain constant, healthy pressures within our arteries (so we don’t die if you know what I mean).
And this all comes down to training it with no other than cardio exercise, which is defined as any activity that causes an increase in heart rate.
The basic principles of muscle growth- the low rep, high intensity concept can and should also be applied to cardio training.
Unless you were a real beginner (which, if you are I commend you for taking your first step to an active lifestyle, you wont regret I promise), or were convalescent, you wouldn’t hit your biceps with a small, 5 kilo weight and go at it for many many repititions would you?
It’d be a waste of time, and your muscle fibres won’t be stimulated or physiologically stressed enough for it to grow and strengthen in response!
So why would you hit the treadmill at a comfortable pace for hours on end, or sit at the stationary bicycle cycling leisurely until the end of your precious hour of exercise?
Its no wonder why cardio machines nowadays come with youtube options or screens to plug your episodes of Brooklyn nine one one in.
This is how cardio becomes boring, and your heart muscles dont get a good workout.
That’s it. Things must change.
Instead of engaging in low intensity, steady state (LISS) cardio all the time, it might be more beneficial to do high intensity interval training (HIIT).
Basically working your ass off with full blast, explosive energies (high intensity) for a short period of time (equivalent to low reps) and then taking a mini rest in between before repeating the cycle again.
You’ll be done in 15 minutes at most, depending on how many cycles or circuits you choose to put in.
What I absolutely love about HIIT is flexibility to custom your circuits with whatever cardio moves you like, so it doesn’t become routine.
And you know our muscles need to be tantalised with variety in training in order for progress to be made.
HIIT also keeps the fat burning mechanisms switched on for ages even after the short cardio session is finished.
Here’s an example of a 4 move HIIT circuit I’d throw in for 3 times a week (less if you were trying to bulk, more if your goal is to cut)
30 second sprint + 30 second jump squats
Add weight for an extra burn in those quads!
30 second sprint + 30 second jump lunges
Jump lunges kill me every single time. Ensure your front knee does not go over your toes, and land with ‘soft knees’ and heel first to feel the stretch in those lower gluteus muscles.
30 second sprint + 30 seconds single leg side squats
For example, if you were to squat to the right, you keep your left leg striaght (toe pointing forward still) and just bend at the knee towards your right, keeping that right knee behind the toe.
Feel this one in your side glutes and inner thighs. Add weight for more resistance
Cycle 4: 30 second sprint + 30 second curtsey back lunges
For e.g a right curtsey lunge consists of your left leg lunging back wards, but instead of lunging directly backwards, you lunge with a 45 degree angle towards your right side.
You should feel this again in your right side glute.
And there we have it! A HIIT cardio workout. Make sure you take 20 to 30 seconds of rest between cycles, and repeat the entire 4 cycles for 3 rounds to achieve maximum sweat effects.
And if you do still like to jog, or cycle on the staationary bike (LISS cardio), then go for it! Just remember to switch it up a little with HIIT in between.
Note: please only attempt these if you are in appropriate physical cardiovascular state to do so. Consult your doctor or physician should any heart conditions exist before attempting any sort of workout.
And sorry, laziness does not apply as inappropriate cardiovascular states :))
Thank you for staying till the end,
Wishing you all a safe day ahead and sending happy (and sweaty!) vibes your way.