You wanted to get fit. So you started running. At first, you trained for a 5 km run, and then a 10 km run. Then you thought a half-marathon was a good idea. After logging half a dozen halves, you decided to go for it: To train for a marathon.
“Cardio” is a bit like tanning: The darker you get, the darker you want to be, and before you know it your skin is orange and wrinkly at best, or you have skin cancer at worst!
When it comes to “cardio” training, it’s like the old saying, ‘Too much of a good thing is just that: TOO MUCH!’
Now I’m not suggesting cardiovascular training or metabolic conditioning is bad, nor is running, per se, but cardio is only one small piece of the overall fitness puzzle—no more important than strength training (both lifting weights and bodyweight strength acquisition), speed and power training, flexibility and mobility work, not to mention rest and recovery!
This means—GASP IN DISBELIEF—that you do NOT need to do “cardio” every time you come to the gym. It’s just one slice of the pie, folks.
Even though we reiterate this all the time, there are still many of you who believe who just can’t wrap their heads around the idea that they don’t need to condition everyday.
“What’s the met con today?”
“Why is there no conditioning today?
“I need to condition to get a good workout!”
If you have said this aloud, or even thought it, you’re likely one of these people. You likely think you need to condition to lose weight (or to avoid gaining weight) and that your fitness isn’t getting better unless you’re working at a high heart rate for a sustained 20 to 30 minutes each day.
This is simply not true.
So what is a better prescription for fitness, weight loss, leaning up, and overall health?
In a perfect world, we want you all to come three to four days a week (five or six if you’re young, got the best recovery, your body can handle it and you have lofty performance goals). Two or three days a week should be devoted to strength training, and two or three days a week to skill work with some metabolic conditioning (aka cardio). There would also be flexibility, mobility and accessory work sprinkled in most days, and you’d have an entire day or two of complete rest and recovery (or maybe a day of active recovery like a long walk, hike or light swim). Lucky for you we have strength cycles and skill practice warm ups that ensure you are getting all the peices of the puzzle for over all fitness.
Now, because we live in the Okanagan and there is a plethora of recreational activities to do and one of the tenants of our prescription to live a Great Life is to get out in nature, you are likely recreating enough to not have to worry about too much extra cardio, or making it more than 2-3 days a week. However, having said that when you go out and hike, ski, bike, snow shoe, xc ski for your exercise, GO HARD! If you aren't huffing and puffing for a sustained amount of time doing it, then don't count it as a training session or exercise, count it as restorative aerobic work, which is GREAT! Mind your post recreation eating (aka not beers and wings) so that you recover from your bouts of exercise, and can then do it again better or go to the gym and work on strength, skills and other mixed modality high intensity work.
Listen, use the gym for what it's designed for, to get you fit for life and to enjoy your recreational activities outside the gym. In order to do that you still need to be consistent with attendence, recovery and effort output during your time. If the gym is your recreation or hobby, the rules still apply, come in, work hard, practice your skills and recover harder! More time doesn't necessarily mean more results.
Still don’t believe me? If you can relate to any of the below, then what do you have to lose? Maybe try trusting our advice and giving the less is more approach to cardio a chance…
Why am I not losing fat??
You cardio it up all the time, and eat well, but you still have that layer of pudge that just won’t go away. It could be because you’re not taking your strength training seriously (i.e. you don’t pay attention to percentages and skip sets as you’re waiting for what you see as the real workout). It could also mean you’re stressing your body so much from all the conditioning that your hormones are out of whack. Bringing down your cortisol levels through the less is more approach might be a good place to start. Cardiovascular overload can also lead to high blood sugar levels, which might also be affecting your body’s ability to lose weight/fat.
Why do my joints always hurt?
Do you skip the mobility work to log a 3-mile run after class? Then you wonder when your knee is going to magically heal itself so you can squat again?
Why aren’t I getting stronger?
The age-old belief that you can’t get both stronger and better endurance all at once isn’t necessarily true; however, if you’re overloading your body in one area it’s going to be impossible to make gains in the other area. If you don’t feel like your strength gains are happening as fast as you’d like them to, then consider reducing your conditioning work and adding more strength accessory work. Talk to your coach for help.
Why do I feel to drained of energy?
Exercise is supposed to help you have more energy, not less! If you feel like you’re not recovering well, consider NOT doing that extra spin class and 10-km run on the weekend.
If you think you fit this bill but still aren’t convinced, or you’re ready to consider making a change, contact your coach for a chat.