Cardio Will Not Get You Fit
By Guest Blogger Paula Jager, CSCS
Just say NO to LSD!
Don’t worry – I am not talking about Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, a psychoactive hallucinogenic drug popular in the 60’s and 70’s but rather Long Slow Distance. Obviously the former ride would be considered a bad trip. Nonetheless, when deciding on a method of “cardio”, long slow distance is most definitely not where it’s at.
Interval training is the route you want to follow to get fit and healthy.
First, determine your goal. Are you training for a marathon, triathlon or ultra marathon? If so you will need to do some
long slow distance as part of a well designed and individualized training program which also includes training faster and at shorter distances along with a strength and power program.
Most of us are not training for these types of events and, hence, the mainstay of this article will focus on more typical, real life applications.
If your goal is to improve health and fitness, lose body fat and reduce stress, long slow distance will not be the best vehicle for you.
Grinding away on the treadmill, walking at 3.0 mph for hours at a time or a leisurely stroll through your neighborhood will simply not cut it.
Face the facts: most people do long, slow cardio because it’s easy, not due to its magical fat-burning properties. If you want to be as lean and as muscular as possible you need to up your intensity.
How many people do you know that do long, slow cardio several times a week, even with a professional trainer, and still have trouble getting fit and losing weight?
The reason is because cardio doesn’t cut it. High intensity interval training is where it’s at!
Intensity is a relative term and will be different for each individual by degree not kind. Intervals can be anywhere from 10 to 15 seconds up to 5 minutes. The mode can be walk/jog, walk/run, jog/sprint, bike, row or swim. The training could be as simple as walking for 100 m, then jogging for 100 m performing anywhere from 5 to 15 intervals. The possibilities are limited only by your own creativity.
There should be a thorough warm up taking anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes preparing the body for what is to come and some appropriate drills for more intense modes like sprinting. The actual “work” phase can be anywhere from 5 minutes up to 30. Anything past that is usually self defeating as that type of intensity is difficult to maintain for a longer duration.
Let’s just say this if you can talk, read a magazine or watch television you are most definitely not working hard enough. If you are not sweating you are not working hard enough.
Your breathing should be labored and talking difficult if not impossible. If you are faint, nauseous or dizzy you need to tone it down a bit. You must assess where you are at, begin at a level appropriate to your fitness and build gradually to this type of intensity.
Incorporating into your Fitness Program
Beginners: warm up thoroughly 5 to 7 minutes. This may be merely a walk or a slow pace on a bike if that is your chosen mode. Start with 4 intervals of 30 s intense (to your level) walking, jogging or biking and 2 min of recovery at a slower or less intense pace. That will take 10 minutes. Cool down of 5 min and some stretching and your entire workout is taking you only 20-25 min. Build from there
Intermediates: warm up thoroughly 5 to 10 minutes with an activity similar to what you will be doing. An example would be an 800 m jog and some mobility work. Workout could be a 200 m fast run followed by a 200 m walk. Perform 5 to 8 intervals. Cool down of 5 min followed by some stretching. Build from there.
Advanced: warm up thoroughly for 10 min with an activity similar to what you will be doing. An example would be an 800 m run, mobility/agility drills, acceleration build up sprints. Workout could be a 1-2, 400 m sprints w/ a recovery of 1:2, 2-3, 200 m sprints with a recovery of 1:3 and 3-5, 100 m sprints with a 1:5 recovery. Cool down 5 min followed by 10-15 min of stretching.
If each of these 3 workout examples is done correctly you should not have anything left. You don’t want to–you gave it your all. We are all busy and time is a precious commodity. So use yours wisely.
If you just enjoy long slow distance there is nothing wrong with that once in awhile; it can actually be therapeutic. A nice long walk along the beach, in a park or on a trail with family/friends/lover or by yourself can do wonders for the mind but when it comes to fitness your training of choice should be primarily interval based.
In order to reap the greatest overall benefits in both health and fitness just say NO to LSD – both of them.
The Healthy Home Economist holds a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Mother to 3 healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.