Sunday, 28 September 2014

Pick'n'mix Cardio

If you are someone who competes in a particular sport which has a cardiovascular element then you are going to have to be very specific about how you train. Runners need to run, fighters need to spar and crossfitters need everything. But if you are a strength athlete, bodybuilder, or someone just training for strength, health, physique or whatever then you can be far more general when it comes to cardiovascular exercise. If you are doing cardio for the health benefits, fat burning effects or to build general endurance then the type of cardio you do doesn't matter as long as you are getting the benefits.

When you are doing cardio for these benefits you are not trying to build muscular endurance but are trying to build the endurance of your heart and lungs or burn calories.

Most of the down sides of cardio are associated with doing the same thing repeatedly. The adaptation s of your type 2 muscle fibres towards endurence will be greater if they are getting repeated signals to adapt to an ever greater demand from the same activity. In other words if you run a lot your muscles will adapt to get you better at running. But if your goals are to be as strong and muscular as possible this is not what you want as you are now conflicting with your other goals. The other down side to repeated cardio is wear and tear on the joints. The same motion over and over especially if its high impact like running tends to lead to overuse injury's. So how do you get the health and fat burning effects of cardio while avoiding loss of strength or muscle and minimising your chance of injury? Simple you do a different type of cardio everytime you train it and rotate around the vast options of cardiovascular exercise open to you.
Think of all the different types of cardio exercise.
You have running over varying distances and speeds on varying terrain, skipping, swimming over distances, speeds and strokes, cycling, rowing machines, elliptical, stairmaster, bodyweight circuits, kettle bell work, burpees, carrying things, playing different sports, interval training, power walking, walking with a weighted vest, pushing a prowler, pulling a sled, sledgehammer strikes, battling ropes, assault courses, bag work, grappling, barbell complexes, method naturelle type training. The list is pretty much endless. By taking a varied approach to cardio you still burn fat, get all the health benefits and allow your heart and lungs to adapt to exercise. However the constant variety doesn't allow your muscles to adapt effectively or to produce as much repetitive strain on the joints. The more of a type of cardio you do the more efficient you become at doing it and therefore the less beneficial it is. Constant variety means you will not be as efficient each time and will burn more calories each time.

Of course this method is not perfect as it is difficult to gauge progression.  Is running better than swimming? Did I burn more calories doing that circuit than this power walk? Well you have a couple of options. There is the rate of peiceved exertion. This is your personal gauge of how hard something is. If 30mins of running just about killed you while 30mins of swimming felt easy you know you got more benefit and burned more calories from the running. That's not to say that the most intense forms of cardio are always best. If you just do hill sprints all the time you will probably end up over trained. There are many benefits to easier more sustainable cardio. But overtime you are looking to work harder and for longer. Another way to gauge progress is to buy a heart rate monitor to wear during cardio. Here you can see your heart rate and how it compares between forms of cardio. Some even have built in calorie counters. While these may not be 100% accurate they are at least accurate to themselves so you can compare the calories burning effects between different types of cardio. You do not always need to seek progression on cardio and if you are not doing it for performance then does it matter to you whether it is improving or not? That's up to you but if you are losing fat, getting stronger and more muscular I wouldn't be worried. Training like this allows you to auto regulate your cardio based on how you are feeling with easier and harder workouts thrown in when your body feels ready. Of course you can pick and chose what types of cardio you want to be based on person pretences or create some kind of random. Cardio genrater perhaps giving different options a number and following a dice to see what to do. This can keep things fun and interesting.

I tend to divide cardio into steady state type activity, power walking, vest walking, running, swimming, rowing, elliptical
And interval type cardio, sprints, hills, skipping, bag work, bodyweight circuits, battling ropes, kettle bells, prowler, sleds, sledgehammers, complexes etc. I will perform a mix of the two on any given week depending on what I fancy doing. If you get the opportunity you can play any number of sports and if I have the chance I like to do all day cardio on off days.

All day cardio is basically hiking or bike riding over a long distance that will take several hours. The intensity is very low and is more of a leisure activity exploring new areas and getting into nature. But by being on your feet or on a bike all day you can really burn a lot of calories. Just see how tired you feel after hiking 10 miles. A good thing for this is to look at google maps or earth and find some unexplored places or country side that's within walking or cycle distance. You can of course drive further out and then begin walking or riding as well. You might be suprised just what you find and how good this makes you feel. Take the family with you, your dog, or just get some solitude. You can listen to music or audio books or just the sounds of nature. Only do these on a rest day and just fit them in if you find you have a spare day. I try to do one every couple of weeks.

Keep your cardio constantly varied and never get bored, get all the benefits with none of the draw backs. Programme it however you like or do it completely at random. Make sure you are still lifting to be strong and useful and eating good and you will continue to lose fat, get fitter and be healthier.

They like to mix it 


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