But Cardio Can Be Fun, I Swear!

Ugh, I hate doing cardio…but, I guess I’ve gotta do it. I try to do my cardio but it’s so boring. What if I just lift weights really fast? As a physiologist, these are all comments and questions I’ve heard countless times from clients. For those of us not training for a road race or triathlon, cardio may seem like torture. However, it doesn’t have to be torturous and it can even be a part of your program that you look forward to.

Pick a Time of Day You Prefer

Often times, clients ask if they should do their cardio in the morning while fasted or in the evening. Truthfully, the time of day you perform your cardio exercise and whether or not you perform cardio fasted or after breaking your fast depends on your preference. A cardio exercise is only effective if you’re motivated to complete it.

Understand What You Need Out of Cardio

Cardiovascular exercise isn’t supposed to cause pain or boredom. At the foundation of its name, it’s supposed to strengthen your heart and lungs. According the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine, the average adult should exercise for 30 minutes a day to strengthen the heart and lungs. Thankfully, this 30-minute period can be accumulated throughout the day in either 10-minute bouts or even during a strength training session.

Choose a Style That You Enjoy

If you imagine endlessly walking on the treadmill when you hear the word “cardio”, you’re truly missing out on what could be an enjoyable workout. The main two types of cardiovascular exercise are High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Low Intensity Steady State (LISS). Both types have equal pros and cons but it’s important to figure out which works best for YOUR individual needs.

HIIT training involves quick explosive bursts of intense cardiovascular exercise followed by short periods of rest. To figure out the intensities that work best, subtract your age from the number 220 and multiply that number by 0.8. That number is the target heart rate you want to achieve during the quick bursts of exercise. Because of the intensity of the exercise, each bout can only last for up to 60 seconds with the rest periods lasting 10-20 seconds. The appeal to HIIT is that you can achieve sufficient daily cardiovascular exercise all in a matter of 10 minutes. It can be done if you’re short on time and only have 30 minutes total to do cardio and strength training. However, HIIT would not be recommended for individuals on medication to treat hypertension (high blood pressure), asthma (restricted airways) or tachycardia (fast heart rate). If you have any history of chest pain or difficulty breathing, consult your gym’s exercise physiologist before beginning and always consult with your primary care physician before beginning an exercise program.

LISS training involves a low to moderate intensity of cardiovascular exercise sustained over a 30-45 minute period. To figure out these lower intensities, subtract your age from the number 220 and multiply that number by 0.6. That number is the target heart rate you want to maintain throughout the 30- to 45-minute duration. While opposite to HIIT, LISS training is just as attracting. For those who find HIIT inappropriate for their health demands or endurance, LISS may be a more suitable option. The exercise is performed at a low enough intensity to be able to comfortably hold small conversations and limit any possible chest pains or difficulties breathing. Even in individuals of perfect health, LISS can be relaxing and almost meditative especially if the person chooses to go for a walk, hike, or bike ride outdoors. Unfortunately, the main inconvenience in LISS training lies in the amount of time it takes to complete one session. If you’re pressed for time, 40 minutes devoted solely to cardio may be hard to prioritize.

Schedule Cardio As You Would a Dentist Appointment

Often times, people have a regimented strength training program but fail to do the same with their cardio. Having a clear plan for the equipment needed, the time frame expected, and the direct relation of the cardio exercise to your fitness goals will help make the session more successful.

For more guidance, please feel free to stop in to your gym and consult with the exercise physiologist on staff for a fitness plan including appropriate cardiovascular exercise. As always, stay happy, healthy, and well!