Choosing the Best Cardio Workout for You
I’m going to confess. I just got serious about strength training last year.
My whole reason for writing this article is because I know there are more people like me out there, with my same questions, my same concerns and I wanted to speak to them and encourage them to keep going, keep pushing, and tell them that together we can make our fitness goals a reality!
My Fitness Story
I was that person for whom physical activities had to be social or I wouldn’t be able to motivate myself to keep doing them. I didn’t like working out. I didn’t like going to the gym. I went to Yoga class twice a week and met with my guy friends five days a week to speed walk.
One day last year I was watching Channel 7 news when a human interest story came on about 77 year old competitive bodybuilder and personal trainer, Ernestine Shepherd. “Ernie” had ridden the sofa until age 56 when she took up running for the first time in her life. At age 71 she reached out to former Mr. Universe Yohnnie Shambourger and asked him to train her for competition and within 3 years she was winning titles in competitions that had women twenty and thirty years her junior.
I looked at this 76 year old woman with guns bigger than Rhonda Rousey and then looked down at my own arms which were sorely lacking in any definition and decided then and there I had no more excuses. I was going to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger from Terminator 2 or die trying.
I got a part-time fitness consultant and have been hitting the gym. My biggest hurdles, like everyone else, has been finding time to accomplish my fitness goals. I do have a trainer, but so much of what I have learned is trial and error.
It wasn’t until I went to watch UFC with a friend that I met someone who really helped me pull it all together. The man was a personal trainer and mixed martial artists with the exact type of physique that I wanted.
He told me that it can’t all be about strength-training and yoga. I had switched my walking-with-the-boys time to time spent working at the gym on the weights without really incorporating that cardio back in. Now, I know that I have to make time to work in my cardio, and since then I have been working with my regular trainer to find a regime that brings them both together and I wanted to share what I learned with other people like me that are starting from the beginning—because there are a lot of us out there.
Understand Your Objectives, THEN Set Goals
Understanding all the facets of strength-training and where and when to insert cardio is not ever going to be a cut and dry answer for anyone. There are a lot of different opinions on the addition of cardio to a strength-training routine.
Even people like Marc Lobliner will adjust and re-evaluate how and when to insert cardio into their own regimen which makes it more difficult for people like me who are new to the sport to figure out how best to incorporate it. There is also, I feel, a natural difference between the training needs of women and men that is sometimes ignored when people write or even read fitness articles.
Having said that, I did learn that one of the most important things I could do for myself was to constantly ask these questions and to do my research. I wanted to know, how do you set about designing a perfect routine – where cardio and resistance training are in balance and will help me accomplish my fitness and health goals?
First, I had to manage my goals and expectations with my time. I don’t know about you but my goals were all appearance-driven which is probably not the best way to begin any lifestyle change. I see that I should have very different core fitness goals and objectives.
Maybe you are reading this because you want to get a nice beach body for summer and want to shed some unwanted weight? Your routine will be different than the person who want to gain muscle or to train for a specific sport. Understanding that my primary goal was flawed was the largest contributor to finding a real balance your training.
About one month into my program, I started all over from the beginning with different goals and a different approach because I knew then that my goals were to build lean muscle all over my body, not just lose my “matronly” upper arms.
Understanding all the facets of strength-training and where and when to insert cardio is not ever going to be a cut and dry answer for anyone.
Training to Build Muscle
For those of you who are already heavy into bodybuilding, you will probably think to yourself that you must minimize the cardio training if your goal is to build muscle. You were told that excess cardio can slow recovery and burn up the calories your body needs to build muscle and that cardio will burn your muscle.
From all my research I’ve learned that cardio only burns muscle when the muscle and body have no other options. If you eat right and have balance in your training you can do both and should do both. For someone like me who started at the bottom, as Drake would say, I had enough extra pounds riding me that I had to increase both.
I have set short term, and long term fitness goals. In my short term I had to build a muscular base that would carry me into the next phase of my program. For two months I committed to every type of resistance training my guy could throw at me and developed a good core set of muscles that I could then use as a baseline for my continuing program.
Right now, I am committed to what is for me an aggressive routine. My current weekly regime looks like this: 2 days strength training, 1 day cardio, 1 day yoga with an hour and a half to two hours spread out between morning and evening.
Finding that hour to two hours each day to work out each day is really hard for me, but if I stretch it out it’s a lot easier and when I feel tired I remember this quote that my personal trainer has on his wall:
What seems impossible today will one day be your warmup.
Now if you’re like I was six months ago, you will want to choose a different type of cardio than someone who is in the gym on the weights every day.
My biggest hurdles, like everyone else, has been finding time to accomplish my fitness goals.
Types of Cardio: Which Should You Choose?
Low-Intensity Cardio: Activities such as walking or slow cycling count as low-intensity cardio training that can be undertaken every day for long stretches of time. Your body can recover easily from this type of training while helping you burn calories for fat loss or so that you can shift your efforts to weights and resistance training.
Moderate-Intensity Cardio: Cardio activities such as jogging or swimming are of moderate intensity and require more energy for performance and recovery. A person looking to lose weight should do a minimum of four to six moderate-intensity cardio sessions per week at around 20-30 minutes each. A person looking to build muscle will be fine with just two to three such sessions per week.
High-Intensity Cardio: This type of training is tough on the body but is the one that will yield you the quickest and best results. Think of sprinting and interval training as exercise examples of high-intensity cardio, i.e.: training as hard as you can for a short period of time. Not only is this extremely effective for weight loss, your metabolism is juiced for a long time after you are done with a session.
However, this form of training is the hardest to recover from and should be undertaken only two to three times per week if the goal is fat loss or one to two times a week if the goal is muscle gain.
I wanted to contribute to the articles here on Tiger Fitness because it has been a website that I have gone to over and over again for advice and support. I know that not everyone who reads the articles looks as good as Marc. A lot of you are just like me. I know that I can get the body I want and you can, too.