Do I really have to do Cardio?
If you’re like me, you love doing cardio! Oh wait, actually I don’t like it at all. To be honest it’s not something I look forward to doing. Like most guys, I’d rather spend time in the weight room than on a treadmill. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see the value in it. Quite the opposite. In fact, keeping a regular cardio program is super important for heart and lung health (obviously), brain health (not as obvious, but it’s a fact), and fat loss. Many guys like to think they can bypass the cardio to reach their body composition goals, and for some it’s possible. But for many, having a regular cardio program can make a huge difference in getting fit and staying lean.
While I’m at it guys, I should also dispel the myth that doing cardio will devour every ounce of muscle you have, leaving you with a frail, shriveled frame. This simply isn’t true. As long as you’re taking in the right amount of protein and doing some strength training, you’ll preserve your muscle mass. While the fellas often avoid the cardio section like the flu, ladies are typically superstars here. I’ve noticed ladies are much better at committing to a cardio program than guys are.
How do I get started?
Hopefully you’re sold on the idea that cardio is important. Good. There are all kinds of ways to incorporate cardio into your routine. Some people proclaim HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is the best. Others enjoy jamming out to their iPods while going a steady pace on the elliptical for an hour. All methods have their benefits, but what matters most is what YOU can see yourself sticking to on a regular basis. If you love your morning 3 mile run, keep at it! If you hate the thought of trudging along on a cardio machine for an hour, then give a shorter, but higher intensity workout a shot. Here are a few ideas to get you started. I’ll list some non-traditional ideas, since you don’t need me to tell you how to get on a stationary bike and pedal for 45 minutes.
- Jump rope: Jump ropes are great because they’re so cheap and can go anywhere. Perfect travel companion! Do intervals with 1:3 work to rest ratio for beginners, 1:2 for intermediate, and 2:1 for well-conditioned people. For example, you would do 30 seconds of jumping and 90 seconds of rest if you’re a beginner. If you’re advanced, you could do 2 minutes of jumping and 1 minute of resting. Do intervals for anywhere from 10-20 minutes.
- Stairs/bleachers: If you have a set of stairs or bleachers nearby, then some awesome cardio awaits! Run up and down until your lungs or legs give out. This one can be brutal, so plan on starting slow and doing a few run, working your way up as you go along.
- Kettlebell swings: Bet you didn’t realize kettlebell swings can be considered cardio. In one study I read, calories burned during kettlebell swings equaled the amount of calories burned treadmill running over the same amount of time. Not to mention, when done correctly, kettlebell swings have a host of other benefits. They strenghten your butt, legs, back and shoulders.
- Hills: This is one of my favorite outdoor forms of cardio. I like to use Spott’s Park in Houston for this when I’m around it. Similar to the stairs and bleachers, this doesn’t take much thought. Just run up and down until the fire in your legs and lungs gets to be too much. You can mix it up by running fast up the hill, and slow down as a recovery. You can even get creative and do some bear crawls in between hill runs to get the arms, shoulders, and core more involved in the fun. Rest assured your legs and buns will feel the burn for days to come.