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.
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.
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!