How Much Cardio Should I Be Doing?

cardio-run

The short answer…not much.

The long answer… depends.

Cardio, short for “cardiovascular”, means you’re working your heart and lungs. Which is a good thing because when your heart and lungs work, they push your blood through your body, removing waste, pushing oxygen rich blood to where it needs to go, etc.

Cardio is also good for increasing your ability to do more cardio.

So, if you have a half-marathon or a 100-mile bike ride you’re training for, you would want to increase your ability to do more aerobic activity.

So back to your original question…

How much cardio should I be doing?

If you’re looking to tone up, that means you’re looking to lose fat and keep your lean muscle.

If you’re like me and you really aren’t a fan of doing loooong bouts of steady state cardio (a cardio workout that is a continuous, steady effort, as opposed to an interval cardio workout where you vary your energy output), then the answer is…

None.

You don’t NEED to do any cardio, really.

To get a more toned body all you really need to do is sustain or gain the muscle that you have and burn fat. And to be honest, doing long bouts of cardio can be detrimental to keeping the muscle you have.

Let me give you an example:

Let’s say I ask you to run 1 mile. You could probably do it, no problem.

Now, let’s say I ask you to wear a backpack full of lead in it, and ask you to run that same mile in the same amount of time.

You would probably start out fine, but after a few minutes you would want to take the backpack off, right?

I’m sure it would be much easier on you without this heavy backpack.

Your body does this exact same thing, except the backpack full of lead is your lean muscle.

Once you start running, your body wants to strip off the heaviest thing available to make it more efficient. And that extra weight is your muscle, not your fat.

 

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Think about a marathon runner for a second.

Typically they have very little muscle at all. They are usually very thin, with even some bone showing in their ribs and chest.

That’s because their bodies are using the muscle they have as energy. Just like you are doing while running on the treadmill.

So, what’s the alternative then?

To get the body that you’re looking for, you need to keep the muscle you have, if not gain some, and burn fat.

marathon_sprinter

What to do instead of cardio

Here are my recommendations for types of workouts to do that will give you more results than traditional cardio and I feel are a lot more enjoyable.

HIIT

HIIT training is by far the best bang for your buck.. scratch that, Tabata is probably better. I’ll talk about that in a second.

You can do HIIT training which is High Intensity Interval Training.

This is my favorite type of training. It involves the use of weights and allows you the ability to go back and forth between exercises.

My favorite type of HIIT Training is called Peripheral Heart Action (although not 100% accurate name).

Peripheral heart action refers to doing an exercise with your upper body, say pull ups, rows, or even curls, and then immediately going to a set of lower body exercises like a squat, lunge or a jump or something like that.

That way your upper body “rests” while your lower body works, and vice-versa, but in the meantime your heart stays pumping.

Tabata

Tabata training is, to my knowledge, the most effective fat loss  “cardio” workout you can do. It’s also one of the hardest.

If you’re not familiar with tabata training, it’s 20 seconds of work, with 10 seconds of rest. Repeated for 4 – 8 minutes.

Sounds easy, right? It’s not.

The rest time flies by and you’re right back to moving again.

The good thing is that you can do a tabata workout super fast. This is the best workout for those days where you only have a half hour to workout and you have to get out of the gym.

Covert Cardio

Covert Cardio is the best type of cardio for a busy person who wants to get lean.

Most of us are busy and want to get the most bang for our buck.

Typical cardio in the morning and strength training at night is just not a realistic schedule for the average person these days.

When you want to build muscle and burn fat at the same time, that’s where Covert Cardio comes into play.

Now, what is it?

Covert Cardio is a unique way to add cardio like activities in between strength training exercises.

For example, on a day you do chest, complete your 4 sets of 8 reps of bench press. But instead of moving to incline or flyes, immediately grab a kettlebell and complete 3 sets of 20 swings with only 30 seconds rest in between each set.

You will keep your heart rate up without hindering your strength training goals.

Kettlebell Swing

But all of these types of workouts depends on your goal.

Do you want to have more cardiovascular endurance?

Do you have a 10K to run?

Well, in that case, yeah, more traditional cardio exercise is going to be important.

But if you’re looking to drop some fat, lose some weight, or look better overall and you’re like most people and you’d prefer not to run on the treadmill, then HIIT or Covert Cardio training is really all you need.

Try this at home: Next time you go to the gym, wear a Fitbit and run on the treadmill for 45 minutes. Track how many calories you burn.

The next day, try a HIIT workout or Covert Cardio workout, and compare.

I guarantee you’ll burn more calories, and get a better pump with the HIIT or Covert Cardio than you do on the treadmill.

Not only that, but you’ll burn even more calories after YOU’RE done with a HIIT or Covert Cardio session then you are going to with a treadmill session because your muscles have to recover, your body does a lot more after a resistance program then it does for a jog.

Summary

The next time you workout, try a HIIT workout or Covert Cardio workout instead. It will be a lot more enjoyable, you’ll burn more calories, and you’ll be done faster than if you ran on the treadmill.

 

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