No matter how efficient, combo workouts (strength and cardio) become, there is major value to good heart pumping, music bumping cardio sessions.
What’s the Benefit?
Cardio is an obviously well adored way to burn calories and get your sweat on. But did you know some serious magic occurs in your body on a physiological level? Cardio increases blood flow throughout the bod. All the extra blood floods your brain cells in oxygen and glucose, which they need to function. The more they get, the better they perform.
Exercise also signals the release of key hormones throughout the body:
Serotonin: The mood booster.
Dopamine:Which affects learning and attention.
Norepinephrine:Which influences attention, perception, arousal, and motivation.
This magic cocktail is what leaves us feeling more
Focused, Energized, and Happy!
Is All Cardio Created Equal? In short, no! There are many different ways to do cardio. Ultimately there are 3 different types of energy systems your body can run on. We’ll focus on two different types of cardio and how they differ.
- More intense
- Burns more calories
- Longer lasting metabolic effects
Byefinition; High Intensity Interval Training is alternating short periods of intense exercise with less intense periods of recovery. There are various ways to accomplish this including sprint/walks or simple stair climbs. Basically you are going all out for a short period of time, recovering at an easy pace, and then repeating your sprint and recovery pattern for a set length of time. HIIT is all the rave right now and for good reason.
HIIT produces “afterburn” or EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption). This phenomenon means the work you put in pays off long after your shower and protein shake. Some studies have found your body burns excess calories up to 16 hours later. That’s amazing right? To give you an idea of how much time you should recover between sprints. Figure this, Olympic athletes have a 1:1 ratio of work:recovery. Meaning it takes them an equal amount of time to increase their heart rate as it does to recover their heart to their resting heart rate. The average person has a 1:5 ratio. Yikes! That means it takes the average person 5 times the amount of time to recover as it did to get their heart rate elevated. Makes sense though, anyone can get their heart rate high. It’s the athlete who can recover the quickest with their strong and efficient heart. Thus, another benefit of HIIT; it makes your heart more efficient. A great place to start is a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio. Basically you will work hard (all-out effort) for a set time, now recover (easy pace) for 2-3 times your hard work period.
Your workout would look like this…
- 5 Minute Warm-Up at a Moderate Pace
- 30 Seconds Sprint (walk up a steep hill, run all out, jump rope, or peddle your bike at full effort)
- 1-1:30 minutes to recover at a moderate pace
- Keep repeating your sprint and recovery for 20 minutes
- Cool Down at an easy pace for 5 minutes
Steady State Cardio (SS)
- Done in longer sessions
- Easy on the body and specifically thyroid and adrenal issues
- Easy to accomplish
By definition, SS cardio is a continuous steady effort. Now that you’ve read the benefits of HIIT you may wonder if SS should have any business in your weekly workout schedule. It should! You will recover faster from SS cardio and it will in fact aid in recovery. You will likely stick with this type of cardio more often than HIIT, as it’s less intense and feels more doable on days you’re experiencing low energy, or muscle fatigue and soreness. Lastly, it’s less stressful on your body. Exercise is a form of stress; the right dose will send our body the signal to get stronger, leaner, and torch more calories. But if you’re under extra stress, battling adrenal fatigue or thyroid disorder, your system is already stressed. In this case, a little TLC and low key SS cardio is likely just what you need.
Your workout would look like this…
45 minute-1 hour, steady pace…
- Bike Ride
Which One is Better?
It depends on your goals! Ideally you would have a mix of the two each week.
How Often Should Cardio Be Done?
Again, this depends on your goals. But it’s more than skin deep. If you’re looking to lose weight The American Council on Exercise recommends 5-6 cardio sessions per week. For simple heart health the recommendation is 3 times per week. If you are suffering from depression or mental health issues, short cardio sessions daily have been proven to be more effective than anti-depressants. (Note; please do not stop any medication without consulting with your health care practitioner).
Make your Cardio as painless as possible…
- Invest in a good shoe and a great insole. Superfeet brand insole is one of my favorites.
- Foam roll before Cardio. No exceptions. Our bodies have natural imbalances. Foam rolling will balance you out before your cardio session so your movement pattern is more efficient. Not rolling often results in chronic issues like a sore back, nagging knee pain, sciatica, neck issues, and weak ankles. Take the time!
- Cross train. Don’t be so faithful to the treadmill. Switch up your machines and your terrain. Stairs instead of treadmill and outside instead of inside or visa versa.
- Wear a supportive sports bra. No explanation needed.
- Bring a towel, water, and music that gets you in the zone.
- Bring a buddy, make sure you have similar paces if your outside.
- Set small goals and then crush them…10 minutes each on the different types of cardio machines, 6 sprint drills, make it fun!
- Visualize a goal. When your jamming, visualize the goal your trying to conquer, it could be anything from a task list to buying a new home.
Have fun! Loosen up and enjoy the ride…