Cardio, or as I like to call it, “The devil’s favorite pastime,” sucks.
When it is hated by many, and loved by so few, it is hard to know exactly what you should do (I’m the next Dr. Seuss). So, where exactly should you start? How much should you do? Why should you even get off the couch? Well, come on and follow me down the rabbit hole!
Because my current goal is to maintain the muscle I currently have, while I am cutting down on the fat I also currently have, I don’t overdo it on the cardio. (“Cutting” is when you work on getting down to a certain body-fat percentage, so you can then bulk back up to build muscle.)
The heavens open up, a bright light shines down, loud celestia- like music plays, I float down before you in a white track suit: “It’s your lucky day. You no longer have to run for six hours at a time. No more long stretches of boring, painful cardio. Be free my child. Walk, don’t run, away and be free from the chains that once bound you because of incorrect advice from the media.
By incorrect advice, I mean spending hours upon hours upon hours a week cry-running on the treadmill, hoping to not knock yourself out while doing your thousandth kettle bell swings, or wearing two sports bras or extra tight compression shorts when jump-roping for what feels like days at a time. (Don’t lie, we’ve all been there. The double sports bra, not the kettle bells. I ain’t swinging what I don’t have to)
“Alright, since you like to pretend you know so much about everything, how long should we be doing cardio?”
“Ease back, I’m the only one allowed to be sassy here. But great question!”
It really is all going to boil down to: What do you want? Do you want to maintain the muscle mass you already have? A lot of the bodybuilders I’ve studied get away with doing an hour or less in a week. If you are trying to build muscle, I would keep it to the absolute minimum you can, to not hinder your results.
A lot of us are just confused by all of the different magazines, advice from crazy neighbors, or our great-grandmother’s exercise advice from the olden days (Though I do love me some Richard Simmons).
This is Richard Simmons, for all of you kids whose mom didn’t make them dance to him with her. Ya’ll were missing out, but you’re going to be a better version of yourself after this history lesson:
Bet you think I’m lot saner now don’t cha? (Seriously, he’s entertaining enough to break out the air popper and put him in for your Friday night movie.)
You do not have to be chained to these machines for hours upon hours, because we now know that it can actually do more damage than good.
With a quick search, we can see that too much cardio can be harmful to our bodies. It can even lead to some serious medical problems, like the impairment of our respiratory system.
Research also shows that cardio can lead to what they call a “sudden cardiac death”, brought on by too much cardio in people unknowingly carrying asymptomatic cardiac disease.
When we strain our bodies too much it can make it really hard for it to try and recover for our next workout and make it very difficult to continue building muscle. It can even go as far as damaging our muscles.
While we are frequently told all of the reasons cardio is great and that we should double it, it is good to be aware of the other side of the coin. None of that was said to scare you away from it, it was just said to reassure you that I am not a crazy person, mostly.
That’s not to say that it isn’t good for you though. In fact, not getting enough can lead to some pretty serious diseases (like cardiovascular disease), but putting on your tennis shoes could do the opposite.
Different forms of exercise (cardio mainly in this article) can even improve our mental state, and can have a positive effect on our mood.
Confused? So am I! (That was a joke.)
I know what you’re thinking now: How much do I have to do, and how little can I get away with? No more than two hours in a week. I’m being serious. In fact, I do less than that. This, for me at least, seems to be the sweet spot in preserving the muscle I currently have (thank God for newbie gains), while still dropping in weight.
(Pro-ish tip: Don’t forget to lift those weights, or else you might end up skinny fat.
According to Olivia’s dictionary: Skinny fat is when we are, yes, thin, but don’t have enough muscle so we are also fat. Look it up.)
So now that you know not to do too much, and to use it as more of a supplementation to weight lifting, what exercise should you do?
Steady Cardio: Do you like shin-splints? Would you like for your knees to give out at twenty? Then running is for you! Maaaaybe I’m a little biased towards the terrible sport (someone was forced to run cross country), but some weirdoes actually like this weird foreign thing. This type of exercise makes it easy to burn fat in the beginning, but it has been proven to not be as effective as HIIT.
What is HIIT? Do you get to hit somebody? I mean, that would be awesome, but no. Go join a kickboxing class.
HIIT means High-Intensity Interval Training. And it is about to make you love me even more. Why? Because you can do HIIT workouts for shorter periods of time and get more benefit out of it (when it comes to fat loss and not absolutely eating away at your muscle) than you could with steady cardio. The nice thing about HIIT is that you continue to burn calories (same as weight lifting) even when you finish your workout. While it isn’t the magical cure-all for all of your problems, and you’re going to have to do more than the three minutes the magazine article titled: “HIIT: Melt all of your fat away in 23 days” says, it is still a great way to burn fat.
The beauty of it? There are so many different ways to do the exercise:
Videos: YouTube has no shortage of videos you can follow along with. Maybe one day I will embarrass myself and make a video for you.
Kettle bell swings: Always comes back to those. Can’t get away from them.
Stationary Bike: All the joy of biking, without actually moving. The upside? You can track your speed/distance/calories on a machine, which always motivates me to be ever-so-slightly faster than I was the day before.
Rowing: Similar to the stationary bike in the way that you can keep on pulling and never go anywhere. To me rowing is actually quite calming, and it is an effective workout.
My favorite sprints: I understand these aren’t for everyone. It combines the hard impact of running and the pain of any cardio, but to me it’s shorter than the others. You can do them on the elliptical, ground with your feet, treadmill, etc..… I love them because, to me, they’re relatively quick and painless compared to some other things.
And there are so many more forms of HIIT to choose from.
So now that I have chosen one of the terrible things above, how exactly do I do it?
We start by figuring out exactly how long you can go for before you keel over. I can sprint/bike/cry-I mean row for about a minute at pretty much full speed (pathetic, I know) before I feel like my heart is actually going to give out on me, I’m going to cough up a lung, or my intestines are gonna fall right out.
In total, we should be doing fifteen to twenty minutes of actual HIIT (I know, I wish the warmups and cool downs counted too). I start out by warming up (Sometimes I just jump into it after finishing lifting; I know I’m terrible. Forgive me, father, for I have sinned). Usually pretty slowly, so I can wipe the tears of exhaustion off my face. My warmups typically last for about 2-5 minutes. I can usually tell how long I need to go (Or how long I can make it), based on how I feel when I start.
When the three-minute mark rolls around, I kick it into high gear:
I try to keep it around nine to eleven mile-per-hour during this minute.
After that minute passes, I praise God, and slow to a crawl (Not really; it’s good to keep an active pace. But “moderate pace” just isn’t as humorous sounding) for two minutes. Oh, and also, at least twice during the HIIT workout I yell at the machine to shut up when it tells me to keep my hands on the sensors, so it can read my heartbeat. Like, dang, can I not scratch my nose?
Then I repeat the process until my twenty-three minutes are up and I finish my added five-minute cool down, or until the day I have a heart attack and get to finish early. I do this about three to four times a week, and I’ve seen amazing results. Now you’ve I’ve successfully finished the workout, and you too can now wonder how many years you’ve either added on or shaved off of your life by working your heart so hard.
Pro-ish Tip: Never stop pushing yourself. If it starts to get easier make it tougher. Run a little faster, or a little farther, give yourself shorter rests in between, make yourself question why you started this morning in the first place.
So if I’m supposed to be doing both of these impossible things, which one should I be doing first?
If you land on a day when you’re supposed to be lifting weights and doing your cardio, then do the weights first.
“Why are you always asking me questions? Huh? Answer me that.”
When you’re lifting weights you’ve gotta give each rep, each set, everything you’ve got. It is very hard to do that after you’ve already spent everything you had in the tank.
Why would you run ten miles in the morning, if you knew you had a marathon later in the day? (Why would you run a marathon at all?)
Weight lifting needs to be treated like the main event (if you’re here for weight lifting purposes, and occasional recipe and playlist purposes. And if you’re not why are you even here?). And if it isn’t, then we aren’t putting forth the effort we need to make the changes we want.
Something people don’t know, or don’t want to hear because they are afraid of lifting, is that if you only do cardio, you will more than likely end up skinny-fat. (Skinny-fat: when you are thin but you don’t have enough muscle and too much fat. To correct this you need to start building lean muscle) You’re also likely to eventually plateau, get stuck and frustrated making no progress, and eventually quit.
While doing either weight lifting or doing cardio is better than doing nothing at all. It is when we combine the two that a momentous improvement in weight loss can be seen. And I, as well as this research article, can attest that the two are better together because of the results I have seen since I started combining the two several weeks ago.
But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how many studies you read. You have to do what works for you and what keeps you interested (Even if what you are doing is wrong).
Your physical challenge for the week:
You guessed it! Try some form of HIIT! How did you know, you smarty pants you!
Again, there are so many forms of HIIT, and you can do it anywhere. In your house, at the park, at your kids’ birthday party, at the gym, at church. The options are literally limitless.
Your personal challenge for the week:
Since we are all working so hard this week with our HIIT, I thought it would be wise to issue a challenge about mindful eating.
I know what you’re thinking: “This woman is already complaining about my lack of eating, now she’s trying to touch my mac-n-cheese.”
I’m not messing with your mac-n-cheese, not this week anyways.
No, this week I’m simply asking you to be mindful when you are eating.
Mindful eating can start with not eating while watching TV or playing games. It has been proven time and again that distracted eating causes us to eat more than we need or even realize we do, and overtime can lead to significant weight gain.
Mindful eating can be watching the types of foods we put into our bodies (so I am attacking the mac-n-cheese a little). Often when we are swamped we don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about where our next meal will come from, or what it will be. You can practice mindful eating by taking fifteen minutes to write out nutritious meals for the week. Then on your weekly shopping trip you can pick up a container of strawberries instead of Oreos and be better for it, all because you planned ahead.
Mindful eating can also be a time when we relax and connect with our loved ones. Food is universal; it transcends language. Everyone speaks food. Meal times should be a safe and fun time for us to unwind with those we love. We can practice mindful eating by making meals a comfortable and safe space and time that we look forward to at the end of the day.
Mindful eating can be listening to our bodies. If you are on your own weight loss, or muscle gaining, journey you know how important food is. Too much or too little can be detrimental to all of our hard work. But we don’t often take the time to actually listen to our bodies. So, this week, we can practice mindful eating by listening more. If you are hungry (Truly hungry: You drank water, and waited to see if it would pass by distracting yourself for a short while) eat! If you are not hungry stop eating!
Mindful eating can mean many things, but it is all about how you can apply it to better your life.
I would love to hear down below how the two challenges went for you! Comment and subscribe to my blog to see weekly-ish content! You can also check out more of my content at my Olivia Jean Fitness page on facebook. If you don’t feel comfortable commenting down below you can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I hope to hear from you soon!
~ 1 Corinthians 10:13~
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.