What is Cardio?


A few years ago I was in the gym locker room and some girls were discussing their New Years Resolutions to go to the gym more and lose weight.  A trainer overheard them and mentioned that she could train them as a group.  She told them it would be more fun that way as they could do their cardio on treadmills next to each other.

“I love cardio but I don’t do treadmills,” one girl responded.  The trainer said that wasn’t a problem and asked her what her preferred form of cardio was.  “Free weights,” was the answer.  The trainer told her that wasn’t a problem, they could do just that.

I had such a hard time keeping my big nosy mouth shut.  I wanted to scream, “That’s not cardio!  You’re going to get ripped off.”

I started to realize, there are a people out there who really want to get fit but just might not know where to start.  Cardio involves your cardiovascular system; your heart, arteries, blood vessels, and the transporting of oxygen throughout your body.  Your heart is the largest muscle in your body.  If you aren’t working out your largest muscle, you aren’t giving your whole body a workout.

The truth is, cardio isn’t easy.  It takes some effort and some discomfort (often confused for as pain).  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good free weight workout and I believe that should be part of your total exercise regiment.  However, free weights can be done at a nice leisurely pace.  Your heart, no matter how you do it, isn’t going to get the workout it needs.

In order to lose weight, or for those who are looking to simply maintain weight and live a healthy lifestyle, you really need to aim for 30-45 minutes of cardiovascular activity 4-6 times per week.  I prefer to aim on the higher end of that plan.

It is okay if you don’t like to run.  There are plenty of other options including: swimming, cycling, the elliptical machine, the stair mill, jumping rope, an aerobics class, spinning, rowing, crossfit, and a kettle bell workout.  With all of these options there is something that you can find enjoyable and even better you can mix your workouts up during the week.  To some extent  you can use free weights in a circuit training workout to incorporate lifting and cardio, but it will likely not be to the intensity that your body needs.

A few examples of cardio equipment.

A few examples of cardio equipment.

Look at the array of cardio equipment.  Take a look around your gym or ask someone for help.

Look at the array of cardio equipment. Take a look around your gym or ask someone for help.

If you prefer to walk this is also an option and is especially great for people who are older, injured, overweight, or are just starting to workout.  Keep in mind that you should aim for a bit longer of a walk, closer to an hour at a time and keep the pace brisk.  Strolling at the mall is not going to work your heart, just your pocketbook.

If you are pressed for time you can break these workouts up.  Do 20 minutes in the morning before you leave for work and finish with 20 minutes later in the evening or during lunch.

Cardiovascular activities are not meant to be easy.  You are going to feel your lungs burning, your heart pumping, and you are going to break a sweat.  But you owe this to yourself and your health.  Be honest with yourself and remember that it is only 30 minutes out of your entire day.  Bring a magazine.  When I first started running I ran on the treadmill reading US Weekly and other similar magazines (I knew all the best gossip for a few years).  Put some headphones on and listen to some good music or a favorite podcast.  If your gym has TV’s on each machine you can simply get your cardio done as you watch a 30 minute show.

Once you get started doing this for yourself, over time you will find that these kind of workouts can feel enjoyable.  You will start to feel better about yourself and leave workouts pumped full of endorphins and energy.

Don't let the equipment intimidate you.  I am so uncoordinated that when I get on the elliptical if takes me a few minutes to get my arms and legs in sync.  I bet it's amusing for those behind me!

Don’t let the equipment intimidate you. I am so uncoordinated that when I get on the elliptical if takes me a few minutes to get my arms and legs in sync. I bet it’s amusing for those behind me!

A special shout out to everyone running Disney this weekend and a special congrats to my friend Jill who completed her first 10k yesterday while running +1!


14 thoughts on “What is Cardio?

  1. I think you can still get in a good cardio workout using weights depending on how you implement them into the workout. However there is definitely a difference between weight training and cardio, and both are important in their own way.

  2. I hope the trainer layer explained cardio to those girls. Then again, if they were so dumb to not know the difference between free weights and cardio, they shouldn’t be trying anything too taxing to the blood flow to their brains.

  3. Nice article! I have never thought of the concept of cardio. Thanks for pointing out that free weight workouts doesn’t equal cardio. Saw your post about Disney run, is it this weekend? in LA? I have a Tinker Bell half Marathon in Disneyland LA on 17th Jan. Hopefully it’s a fun day 🙂 Good luck for these who run this weekend!


  4. Thank you for explaining this. I wonder how many people get ripped off by trainers in this country. Fitness is such a complex topic and it bugs me that anyone would take advantage of someone else because of it.

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