Darragh on Cardio

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I’ve been getting asked this a whole lot lately and people are coming at it from loads of angles. High intensity vs low intensity, muscle retention vs fat loss, endurance vs power and so on.

Depending on an individuals goals, the answer will be different. But each type will have an advantage to it, so both kinds are work considering.

Take high intensity for instance, trying to drop body fat while keeping as much muscle mass as possible? Then this is probably something you should consider. It’s quick and simple to do – you always have time for some sort of Tabata block or HIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session between heavy weight sessions.

So you can still maintain a high work rate while not dedicating a whole lot of time to it. Hell, if you structure properly you don’t even need any gear.

cardio

So what’s the big benefit of HIIT? Another acronym – EPOC.

EPOC stand for Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. What it basically means is that you require a lot of oxygen AFTER you finished a high intensity (sprints or some such) session for your body to both recover from the sprints and to adapt fitter and stronger for next time.

This translates to you burning a whole lot of fuel in order for this all to happen. And what’s “fuel”? Calories. Those mystical beings that live on your stomach. In reality this translates to you feeling fried and walking around roasting hot for the next few hours.

That’s good – but then there’s the recovery debt to consider. If it’s THAT hard, and you’re already feeling beat up and fatigued from training (say for instance if you’re dieting and stressed out), it may not be the right thing for you.

Now for the low intensity stuff – also know as “moving relatively slowly for long periods of time”, also know as walking / cardio / jogging / cycling / swimming.

Personally I am not a fan of it, and unless you’re training to run long distances like a triathlon or marathon and what not, I really don’t get the point. But, you might just be training for those things so again it can’t be overlooked once it coincides with your current goals.

This type of training requires a whole different discipline. It no longer becomes a matter of how hard you can push or how quick you recover. It becomes about pacing yourself and trying to flirt with the limits of your aerobic threshold.

Cause once you switch to the anaerobic side of thing you’re going to run out of juice pretty damn fast. So this essentially boils down to managing energy systems. During/after a long cardio session your body can enter a catabolic state. This means your body is going to start breaking down whatever it can to replenish its energy levels. So, it’s not exactly the best call for people looking to get particularly strong (…but like anything else – the devil is in the details, it depends HOW you apply it).

So where do I come in on all this? Am I high intensity or low intensity cardio fan?

Well in truth I am in nether camp. I see the benefits of both to suit people needs. But most people who read this are thinking “Sweet! HIT will get me to lose loads of weight”… My friend, hang on just a wee tick.

Before you go running off to join your nearest boot camp just check a few things out first. First off, can you do the movements correctly without any mobility issue. Second, make sure you can do them when you’re exhausted. If you can’t then you should not be doing a boot camp course at all. More then likely you will just end up broken up into a million pieces and wasting a whole lot of money. You have been warned.

So what do I suggest? If you ever even half thought of taking up a sport now is the time to do it. Whether it is kickboxing (or and martial arts) to dancing to fencing. It doesn’t really matter. In the words of Charles Bukowski “Find what you love and let it kill you.”

The point of this pretty simple, pretty much all sports require one of if not both types of training. But they also offer you something much more valuable. They give you a skill set and support structure. I rarely hear of someone saying they’ve been doing boot camp for the last 7 years. But I hear it all the time in sports. Sport has a much greater longevity than most, and just incase nobody else has told you yet. The key to success in any goal is consistence.

I will leave you on this note, its something James once said to me in passing. It really stuck with me and I think it applies beautifully in this case. He said:

“When is more strength ever a weakness?”

Get strong first, then worry about cardio.

Darragh

James Hanley

Strength Coach. Performance Specialist. Dog Lover. Powerlifter. And the guy behind the scenes in RevFit that keeps the plates spinning.