Thursday, June 19, 2008
The #1 Mistake Most Folks Make with Cardio Exercise - [Rufus]
O.K., Mrs. Right, this post's for you! Cardio exercise is great; good for body, mind and spirit. As I wrote previously we are built to move and when we move we feel good. However, most of us also exercise to be less fat. Have you ever met avid runners, cyclists and swimmers that are chunky? I ran the Chicago marathon a few years back and there were good runners that beat my time who looked like they just stepped away from their 3rd trip to the buffet line at Caesar's Palace. In other words, just because you do good, honest cardio exercise does not mean you will be svelte.
I hope blackhawk will chime in here because I'm speaking strictly from observation and personal experience, but there is a point of diminishing returns with cardio and the reason for that is the amazing adaptability of the human body I spoke of earlier. To state it very simply, the number one mistake most folks make with cardio exercise is they do not mix up the pace they exercise and they do not go fast enough. They think 30 minutes of running at a 10:00 mile pace is better than 15 minutes of running at a 7:30 pace. 30 minutes is twice as long, it has to be twice as effective, right? Wrong! Your body will adapt to whatever you ask it to do (within reason). If you ask it to run 3, 10:00 miles each day it will get good at that. Very good. Assuming you're starting from coach potato status you'll notice incredible changes the first month. The first week will be a challenge, by the end of the second week you'll hit a groove and by the end of the month you'll be able to do it and carry on a conversation for the entire half hour. Your body is no longer being pushed.
Do not get me wrong; running 3, 10:00 miles is still far, far better than sitting on a couch watching an episode of "The Office," but you are up against the law of diminishing returns. The first few weeks you've really shocked your body, now it's used to the routine and it has adapted. If you like running 10:00 miles do it! That's fantastic! However, if you want to get lean you're going to find you hit a wall that you cannot get around without severe dietary restrictions.
Now, this gets into rather complex stuff. If you have no experience as a competitive athlete you really ought to work with someone who does if you are going to begin a cardio program featuring intervals of intense work. I have a lot of years of football and track work-outs under the tutelage of trained coaches and a lot of years of running and cycling with others and I still make mistakes in my cardio training that lead to minor injuries. In order to do this right you are going to have to push yourself and it is very important to know the difference between "good" pain and "bad" pain. And, you'll need someone to build some paces and durations that make sense for where you are, and continue to push you as you improve. For more information on this concept google "interval training" or "fartlek." I just did that and found this decent little video someone posted in relation to walking. It really helps emphasize the point that this is relative. You don't have to be an elite athlete or sprinter to benefit from intervals. You can even walk. You just have to push yourself out of your comfort level for brief intervals.