Archive for All Things Cardio

{Trainer Tip Tuesday} Make leisure walks a priority in your life.

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This week’s tip:  Make leisure walks a priority in your life.

 

Sounds weird, right? Aren’t we supposed to crank up the volume in our workouts, go harder, not do less–especially something so…gentle?!?

 

 

Intensity and hard effort definitely have their place in our weekly fitness regimens, but just not ALL the time. Which I found out kind of by accident!

 

 

Last year, I struggled with hormone issues–although I didn’t realize that’s what was going on until late August/early September–and kept it to myself because I didn’t really understand what was up with my body.

 

 

(If you want more details, you can read about it here: “The truth my ta-ta’s told me“)

 

 

Then I managed to get bronchitis on the way home from my first-ever business trip, and landed on my back for roughly 21 days. Walking was about all I could manage.

 

 

 

Shortly after I recovered, I overdid it in the gym and put a couple of ribs out of alignment, sending a chain-reaction through most of my paraspinal muscles. FYI–super tight, knotted paraspinal, and intercostal (between the ribs) muscles will stop you dead in your tracks.

 

 

Again, healing took a number of weeks, during which time all I could manage was walking and a massive amount of core work.

 

 

 

I worried a little about getting out of shape, but my hunger followed my exercise level (less exercise, less intense urge to eat), and I found that by December I had shed about 6 pounds and felt more my normal level of lean again.

 

 

 

All I had done was walk, core work, and occasional (intense!) air bike sprints each week. No magic diet, no crazy workout regimen.

 

 

 

Just…walking with my best girl, who was on the mend, too.

 

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My best girl, Daisy

 

Leisure walking gives our bodies the opportunity to repair. It also give our parasympathetic system a chance to do its thing–which is to promote relaxation and hormonal balance.

 

 

 

(The sympathetic nervous system is the one responsible for fight-or-flight, and the one that releases cortisol–which is a good thing in the right doses, but not so good to have constantly high amounts of in the body.  You can read more about it here: http://www.metaboliceffect.com/can-your-chosen-surroundings-help-you-burn-more-fat/)

 

 

So as crazy as it sounds, sometimes less really IS more–and leisure walking doesn’t just give us the chance to catch our breaths, it gives us the opportunity to establish better hormonal balance.

 

 

 

More hormonal balance means an easier time ‘staying in the middle’ physically and emotionally, and an easier time losing body fat while we’re at it.

 

 

 

Give a couple of shorter (10 minutes if that’s all you’ve got!) walks each day a try, and see if you start feeling better–inside and out–within a couple of weeks 🙂

 

PS–Here’s a link to an article that gives 10 MORE ways walking is so good for us!  I love #3 and #8, especially 🙂

http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/10-amazing-benefits-walking/

 

Leisure walking for the win!

 

 

How I lost the babyweight after #2

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Sitting in my father’s basement TV room while visiting home, 6 months postpartum, with a gorgeous and healthy baby, I was also feeling trapped–10 pounds heavier than my pre-baby weight, wearing a bigger pant size, and A LOT more squishy than I’d been before getting pregnant.”

 

 

That was in late 2005, when I just had zero idea how to help myself at the time, and I tried The FIRM system at home after my daughter turned 6 months old.  Following their exercise plan for beginners (but completely disregarding their meal plan—I was still of the mindset I could ‘exercise off’ what I ate), I improved my fitness over the next 12 weeks and my stamina and self-confidence improved, but my physique didn’t change much.

 

 

Of course, the heaviest weights I used for any of their workouts were 8 lbs….those were the heaviest ones.  I had lighter ones, too!

 

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Baby #2 with my 5# dumbbells

 

 

I giggle when I think about that now.

 

 

I didn’t’ end up losing the weight and gaining more muscle until I started a little bit of interval training on the elliptical and treadmill as well as lifting weights and working with a personal trainer in late 2006.  My interval work was pretty gentle, though, because I was rehabbing my low back/pelvic injury from horse riding accident, so sprint efforts weren’t on the table.  45 minute gentle interval sessions were.

 

 

 

But I was pretty determined not to have the same weight loss/fat loss issues after baby #2, so when I got pregnant the second time, I stayed active, kept lifting weights and doing interval workouts.

 

 

 

Why intervals?

 

 

Two reasons, namely:  I needed to catch my breath and stay oxygenated while working out (didn’t want to starve the baby of it’s O2!), and doing any other kind of workout on a piece of cardio equipment was BORING.  I never was one of those women who could spend an hour straight on the stairmaster—or any other piece of equipment for that matter!

 

 

 

Doing intervals was the ONLY way I could keep myself on those machines—and I was convinced I needed to in order to lose weight, or at least not gain too much with baby #2.

 

 

 

When I was cleared to start really exercising again after baby #2 arrived, I started with walk-jog intervals to rebuild, well, everything, and when the evening daylight faded, I started going to the gym again.  But with a husband in flight school and a baby and a three year-old, I couldn’t spend an hour or more working out!

 

With #2 when he was 4 weeks old

 

So I researched some faster-moving/results-producing super-set strength training plans and went back to my cardio machine intervals.

 

 

Even though my interval training wasn’t too intense, the combination of lifting progressively heavier weights (the 8# days were long gone) and my regular interval training sessions gave me results very quickly.

 

 

By the time baby #2 was 9 months old, I had flat abs and was a size smaller than I’d ever been before.  It kind of shocked me HOW effective what I was doing was for my body.

 

 

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10 months after baby #2 arrived

A strength training devotee was born!

A few months later, I started doing more reading about the effectiveness of HIIT workouts, and played around with different interval training plans (most of which I’ve shared with you over the past 4 weeks!), and had even more success with high intensity interval training on the elliptical and the treadmill.

Since 2010, some kind of interval training has been a regular part of my own weekly training routines.  Truly, HIIT workouts have been my go-to anytime I needed or wanted to lean out a bit or get back in shape—and there have been more than a few times when it’s been necessary!

There’s nothing like a couple of Tabata sprint sessions a week to boost the metabolism quickly—as in noticeably less fat around the midsection in just a couple of weeks.  Plus, it’s hard to be bored when you’re tracking your 20 second sprint/10 second rest intervals in those Tabata workouts.

The thing is, getting fit and staying fit aren’t a simple linear progression—life happens, and between 2010 and now, I’ve broken my big toe, had a bone infection in my foot, had surgery on a knee, injured my shoulder, gone on a few different vacations, and, well, overeaten through a few holiday seasons (but not this past year!).

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Gettin’ around with the help of a knee brace pre-surgery in 2011

HIIT workouts and circuit training with weights have been my recovery tools each time.

But figuring out which HIIT or interval workouts to do took time and research—pouring through Oxygen magazines at first, then scouring the internet in later years for ideas, comparing workouts, figuring out the structure for my weekly and monthly plans….

I SO wish there’d been a program like TreadLIFT available way back in 2006-2010!  I would have saved me SO much time and effort and brain sweat—plus, I would have gotten great results that much sooner.

At least all my time, effort, research and personal testing made it possible for me to recognize an outstanding and effective program when I see one!

And TreadLIFT is definitely that—well structured, super entertaining (you just can’t get bored when you’re sprinting and hill climbing through your workout), and designed to give you a massive amount of bang for your workout buck.

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This is why I’m so confident in this program that I’m sharing it with you—because it’s the kind of program that can help get you real results without spending hours in the gym.  It’s designed for real people who have real lives and can’t mess around with programs that take hours out of their schedules each week or that are tedious and boring.

Life’s too short for that mess!

To give you a little more idea about the kinds of workouts you can expect to get in TreadLIFT, I did the BUILD Legs #1 workout and made a quick video to share with you!  You can check it out here:  https://youtu.be/Un7Em3FcAhM

I love that the programs are done-for-you, that there’s a workout calendar for easy planning and execution, and that the workouts can be easily tweaked to meet your needs.

TreadLIFT’s workouts are all 30 minutes or less, uncomplicated and require minimal equipment–which means they are perfect for busy women, SAHMs, and on-the-go/located all over the globe mil spouses.  All my favorite kinds of people, really!

You can check out all the details here:  http://bit.ly/rlfbykate_treadLIFT

FYI–the program will be open for for registration only through this Friday May 6th at midnight PST ONLY, so don’t wait too long to check it out!

3 Tools to Ensure Your Exercise Is Actually Helping You Lose Fat

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I’m so excited to share today’s blog post from my business coach and fellow fitness pro, Jill Coleman.

 

I first came across Jill’s work back in 2013, and was immediately impressed by her down-to-earth, reasonable, get results approach to fitness and nutrition.

After being exposed for years to the all-or-nothing approach to eating and exercising–you know, the EAT CLEAN (or else!) and exercise like a figure contest competitor as the best/only way to get ‘fit’–it was a relief to find someone who ‘lived in the middle’ but still got amazing results.

Plus, she openly admitted she enjoys having wine–and not just once a month. It was the first time I’d heard a fitness pro in social media say that!

Not only is Jill a fantastic mindset and business coach, she’s also a hell of an athlete who’s been a varsity sports star, rowed crew in college, taught group fitness classes, competed in figure competitions and has done some fitness modeling as well.

Bottom line: the woman knows how to get results–ones that both increase athleticism and sculpt some sweet-looking muscles (that’s what having a sports AND physique background will do!), while honoring our hormonal balances and metabolism.

Enjoy the read and her fantastic advice.

 

3 Tools to Ensure Your Exercise Is Actually Helping You Lose Fat

 

Thank you, Kate, for letting me take over your blog today! I love getting to talk about how to incorporate exercise that actually gets results (!!!), especially for women that have zero time, so this will be fun 😉

 

Many years ago, when I was in my early 20s working at my local Golds gym, over a 2-year time span, I saw something really interesting happen. At the time, I didn’t understand it, by now I do:

 

There was this woman who’d just started exercising when I joined, and her name was Sheryl.

 

Sheryl was pretty overweight when she began, but was showing up every day. And I remember being super impressed with her dedication and consistency.

 

She’d come in, get on the elliptical, sweat it out for an hour, then do some weight machines for about 20 minutes and then leave, red-faced, having worked her tail off. Man, I remember thinking, “She’s crushing it! It’s so impressive!”

 

It was at this same time that I was starting out in the fitness industry as a personal trainer, and teaching more fitness classes, getting into the gym early to get my own workout in before training clients and spending more and more time there as a professional.

 

So Sheryl and I would cross paths daily and I couldn’t help but notice she was losing weight like a champ. What she was doing was working!

 

I’d compliment her on her progress, tell her how impressed I was and try to offer a little encouragement to keep going (not that she needed it!).

 

Fast forward a year later and Sheryl had lost over 60 lbs. Amazing. She was still showing up every day, doing an hour of cardio or more and leaving a pool of sweat behind her.

 

But over the following 6 months, I couldn’t help but notice something happening …

 

Sheryl started increasing her cardio time. Sixty minutes turned into 90. And then occasionally I’d see her at the gym at night too, taking fitness classes. Same day, two sessions.

 

Huh.

 

And then, within another 6 months after that, I noticed that she’d started gaining weight again.

The weight was creeping back on. She was exercising morning and night every day. Cardio in the morning, plus weights. A group fitness class or two at night. And yet the weight was coming back on.

 

I felt really sad for Sheryl, because of all the hard work and time she was dedicating to something that was seemingly no longer working.

 

I remember feeling so confused by this.

 

Though I never personal trained Sheryl, we got close during my fitness classes, and I asked her about her nutrition. She admitted that she is hungry all the time. She said she’d even come to the gym at night for hours to just stay out of the house that much longer to avoid eating. She described what Jade, at Metabolic Effect, calls “Continuous Meal,” when you eat from the second you get home all the way until bed time. She’d try to be good during the week, but the weekend turned into a free-for-all.

 

Sheryl was stuck in a cardio cycle: eating more, and then feeling the need to do even more cardio to burn off calories, and then because of so much exercise, she’d end up eating more and more. Aaaaaand repeat.

 

Her metabolism was no longer in the way it did in the beginning.

 

Marathon workouts led to excessive compensatory calorie intake, which then gave way to even more exercise as a way to make up for it. And so on.

 

This is a huge trap that not only doesn’t work, but can be extremely damaging to the metabolism over the long haul.

 

More exercise doesn’t equal linearly better results ad infinitum.

 

Just because you are burning calories doesn’t mean you are losing fat every second.

 

Why? Because your body is not a math equation. Things like hormones affect how your body looks and how it functions, how hungry you are, how intense your craving are for sugary, fatty, salty foods, the quality of your sleep, how you deal with stress, how tired you feel, and more.

 

The things all impact results.

 

You can think of your metabolism like tires on a car. The more miles you put on it—from stressors like long-duration, moderate-intensity cardio, cutting calories, going for long periods without eating, and the sheer mental stress of being obsessed with your food and exercise every second—the more the tires wear down. There’s not as much traction. There’s not as much responsiveness.

 

Your metabolism doesn’t just run at 100% all the time regardless of inputs.

 

And doing more and more exercise to try to outwork it is not a sustainable input.

 

Think about Sheryl spending literally 3+ hours a day at the gym, only to continue getting zero results, and even backsliding.

 

This is tough, because often when we are at a place where we are doing a lot of exercise, it has happened gradually (like with Sheryl, adding a little more over months and months) so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when we became mentally dependent on it and physically less responsive to it.

 

The key is getting the body responsive again, so that exercise is working for you, and not against.

 

How? Three tools:

 

  • Less minutes and more intensity.

 

Intensity is the driver of results. Not duration.

 

Why intensity? Because of hormones. When we exercise, the body releases both catabolic hormones that break down fat and muscle (like cortisol and adrenaline). And also, if the intensity of the workout reaches a specific threshold, we release anabolic hormones, too (like growth hormone and testosterone).

 

The latter are potent metabolic drivers that help us burn even more fat after the workout is over. And yes, testosterone is even important for women! It’s the thing that helps us hang on to our muscle—which is the body’s tissue that burns the most calories at rest. We need it, especially as we get older, or it’ll be even harder to not gain weight.

 

For optimal intensity (and resultant fat loss and body change), the research shows that 40 minutes of exercise MAX is the place where the body creates that hormonal sweet spot, that optimal hormonal soup.

 

The shorter the workout, the more intensely you can exercise. Which is why I love the new #treadLIFT program that I just released. All 30 minutes or less.

 

  • Take more rest during your workout.

 

Rest and recovery, both within the workout and between workouts is the #1 thing that predicts how intense the workout will be.

 

Think about it: if you are giving yourself rest (like in the case of interval training or weight training, where you take time between exercises), you’re more likely to push harder. If I asked you to sprint a mile, you would automatically pace. But to sprint for 30 seconds, you’d probably go all out.

 

The most effective workouts for fat loss and body change include many 30 second (for example) repeated bouts of high intensity following by rest. Not just one single, long, steady-state cardio bout. That’s a pacing workout and if we are talking about changing your body, it’s both ineffective and unsustainable.

 

Give yourself rest within your workout (by using a technique like Rest-based Training that we employ in #treadLIFT, for example) to ensure that you can push harder: push, rest, push, rest, etc.

 

  • Realize that exercise impacts hunger and cravings.

 

This, again, is a hormonal issue.

 

Excessive and chronically high cortisol, as a result of doing long-duration moderate-intensity cardio like Sheryl was, will increase appetite and cravings. And especially for highly palatable foods high in sugar and dietary fat—the exact things that will negate all that calorie-burning in an instant.

 

Adding more and more cardio to your routine is not benign.

 

And while you might be burning more calories in the workout, your metabolism starts to lag and down-regulate. It doesn’t just keep responding the same way.

 

And compensatory responses in the form of not only hunger and cravings, but adrenal burnout, fatigue, overtraining, lack of motivation, decreased libido, and depression can also occur.

 

Life is too short to spend hours a day on an elliptical, especially when the results you’re after can be had in a quarter of the time with rest + intensity + management of hunger and cravings.

 

Keep things short and intense for best results.

 

If you don’t believe that you can get great results in only 30 minutes, you haven’t been doing the right modes of exercise! In #treadLIFT, I combine intense cardio with effective weight training, all packaged in 30 minutes.

 

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#treadLIFT workouts are designed for fat burning, muscle building or cardiovascular performance, but all 36 workouts have one thing in common: they elicit the best results in the shortest amount of time. Guaranteed.

 

Get #treadLIFT this week only and join the hundreds of women who are already doing the workouts! Registration closes on Friday May 6th at midnight. Grab your copy HERE and start getting way more effective with your time in the gym.

 

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>>> GET TREADLIFT HERE http://bit.ly/rlfbykate_treadLIFT.

 

 

#treadLIFT

 

 

Stop struggling and make your workout work for you–here’s how.

Commercial Rubber Dumbbells

 

“…I was just changing out of my running shoes and into my lifting shoes (yes, I wear different shoes for different activities, lol) and they were loud. Very loud.

 

 

And it was all I could do to just change my shoes and not open my mouth–because I know that free advice is worth all you pay for it AND no one asked for my input.

 

It was still REALLY hard to shut up on this one.

 

One woman was complaining to the other that no matter what she did, her body just wouldn’t change.

 

  • That she had horrible genetics.
  • That she worked out TONS throughout the week–biking or spinning a few hours a week, running a bunch, then putting in long-duration efforts on the weekends–you’d think with all the calories she was burning, she’d lose more weight (her words)!
  • That she used to really follow a strict eating plan, but that after a while, she ‘just couldn’t hack it.’
  • That she was now considering adjusting her caloric intake, increasing it from 1200 calories because she wasn’t making any progress and she was starving all the time.

 

The one commiserated with the other. She just couldn’t, despite her best efforts, get her body to budge either….”

 

This was a real conversation I overheard in the locker room at the post gym in March of 2015 and wrote about in this blog post , but it’s a conversation I hear happening all the time: ‘I can’t get my weight/body fat to budge, so I’ll so more cardio’….OR ‘I’ve been doing so much cardio/so many classes/running so much and I STILL can’t lose weight/lose inches…’

 

Initially when we start working out, our bodies NEED that aerobic cardio base—and we need the gentle, repetitive movement that classically makes up cardio workouts (using the elliptical, going for jogs, riding the bike, using the stepmill) to help us condition our cardiovascular system AND help our muscles and connective tissues adapt to—get used to and handle well–the new workload.

 

This adaptation is important to respect: we can’t just hop off the couch and start doing HIIT or Insanity workouts suddenly without some kind of injury happening in the first couple of weeks; it’s just not how our bodies work, especially as we get into our 30s and above.

 

So longer, steady-state cardio is important and works well for us…at least in the beginning.

 

But after we’ve been doing the same kind of workouts for a while, workouts that use the same movement patterns without an increase in the workload (either speed or added resistance), our bodies get used to that amount of effort and they get more efficient.

 

And when the body gets more efficient, it means that it finds ways to do the same job with less effort—less effort translating to using fewer calories to do the same thing.

 

So we can spend the same amount of time on the elliptical or jog for 30 minutes and get fewer results after just a few months. Naturally, the instinct is to just make the workouts longer—if 30 minutes isn’t enough, then maybe 45…then maybe 60.  Then maybe 2 spin classes or step classes instead of just one…

 

 

What needs to change isn’t the length of the workout, but the intensity of the workout.

 

 

One of the greatest discoveries I ever made was the power of interval training, first through taking Coach Kitty’s (Katherine Kaufman) KUT class in Seattle way back in 2001, and then cementing the lesson while building my fitness and my body back up after baby #2 in 2008-2009.

 

 

When you’ve got two kids under 4, and only a limited amount of time to work out, you try to find the most economical ways to do it!

 

Enter: interval and circuit training.

 

 

First I used the 4:4 ratio, then as my fitness improved, I started using the 3:2 ratio and 2:1 ratio, which meant that I would work hard (what I like to call ‘huff and puff’) for the first # of minutes in the ratio, then recover at a slower pace for the second # in the ratio.

 

 

It was incredible how sweaty I got, how much faster the time went by, and how much leaner I got—in just a few weeks.

 

 

This effect was amplified when I added weights and some ‘sprint’ efforts in different workouts during the week, too!

 

 

Strength Training + (Cardio) Interval Training =

Best. Results. Ever.

 

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My current physique results–no flexing, no filters…and no makeup, lol!! Keepin’ it real….

 

 

In less time, with fewer aches and pains (repetitive cardio often yields repetitive aches and pains), and less impact on my overall appetite—because doing hours of cardio every week will make you HUNGRY.

 

 

This increase in appetite is not very helpful when your body is starting to burn fewer calories in those same hours of cardio workouts.

 

So how can you start to make your workouts, and cardio sessions, start working better for you—and spend less time at the gym, too??

 

 

 

By swapping out a couple of your current longer, steady-state cardio workouts or classes for interval training sessions. And by adding some short, intense strength training sessions or circuit training sessions to the mix, too.

 

 

 

==>If you’re still a newer exerciser or just getting back into exercising, starting with a 4:4 work: recover interval ratio will probably be best for you, and give your body time to adapt (2-4 weeks, generally). Because the work intervals are longer in the 4:4 than in the other intervals, the intensity will be lower—which means the impact is better controlled.

 

 

==>If you’re already pretty fit and looking to kick it up a notch, then you’ll want to try the 3:2 or 2:1 approach, which are a little more intense in nature—meaning more work in a shorter amount of time!

 

 

On a treadmill, a 3:2 approach might mean running at a fast pace for 3 minutes, then jogging for the next 2 OR it might mean walking up a really steep incline for 3 minutes, then reducing the incline for 2 (that’ll wake up the glutes—trust me!).

 

A 2:1 approach on the treadmill would be closer to a sprint effort—but not quite there. It usually means that you’ll run at a VERY fast pace for 2 minutes then jog for 1.

 

Repeat these intervals for 30 minutes, or whatever you have the time for, and cool down and stretch afterwards, and you have a sweet, short, EFFECTIVE workout under your belt.

 

 

 

One of the biggest perks of training intensely for shorter periods of time (as in 40 minutes or less per workout) is that it is so agreeable with our busy schedules and the demands of daily life.

 

 

 

 

These shorter, focused workouts keep us consistent with our workouts since they aren’t overwhelming.  They keep us feeling successful, and they lend to some pretty fantastic post-workout endorphin highs.

 

 

 

 

 

Intense effort workouts = the release of more happy hormones, which is why although some of my clients and class participants might not love how they feel during a sprint interval, HIIT session, or tough conditioning workout (because hard work is hard!), they are ALL smiles afterwards.

 

 

 

 

So if you’re someone who’s been struggling to get results doing long workouts, OR if you’re someone who’s turned off from going to the gym because it’s too time-consuming to get in a workout, then maybe it’s time to give interval and more intense circuit-style strength training a try.

 

I’m telling you, I’m getting the best results ever from shorter, more intense strength and cardio workouts—at 42 years old 🙂

 

 

Should I even do cardio???

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Should I even do cardio?

What kind of cardio is the best?

How much should I be doing? 

 

These are questions that are coming up more frequently these days!

 

Maybe it’s the welcome changes in weather, warmer temps, more daylight hours in each day, or the promise of shorts and summer clothing being right around the corner…whatever the motivating factor is, questions—and opinions–about cardio are popping up everywhere.

 

So what kind of cardio should people do? And how much of it?

 

 

 

My answer is: it depends. (Surprise!!)

 

The kind of cardio you (choose to) do, and how much of that cardio you choose to do depends on:

  • How much time you have
  • What your body’s unique needs are
  • What your personal fitness or physique goals are
  • What you ENJOY doing

 

 

 

Now I’ve been working out for over 20 YEARS, but only working out effectively for the past 9.

 

 

In that time, I’ve tried lots of different classes, training programs, used a ton of cardio machines, and planned and taught boot camps, circuit training classes, and HIIT classes.

 

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So I’ve been able to experience personally and witness, first-hand, the effects of different approaches to ‘doing cardio.’

 

 

The past year, in particular, has been super enlightening and really changed the way I work out AND the results I’ve gotten (which translates to better workouts and results for my clients, too!).

 

 

Here’s what happened…by way of a quick story.

 

At the beginning of April, I participated in the Big Windy 25 Memorial Run, held in honor of the Chinook crew and service members who perished in a crash in Afghanistan in April 2005. The run raises funds to support T.A.P.S.: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors—an organization that supports the family members of fallen military service members. http://www.taps.org

 

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I’m telling you this because it was the first actual 5k I’d done in over 3 months, and I’m not sure I would have opted to run a 5k anytime soon if it hadn’t been for such a good cause.

 

 

 

Which is pretty funny, because I’ve been a long-time runner!

 

 

 

So what happened? Life happened, lol.

 

 

 

Actually, I phased out running last year after joining a CrossFit gym so I could participate in their kettlebell training program.

 

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For the first 4 months, I tried balancing 2-3 runs a week with 3 days of hard training, but it didn’t’ allow my body enough recovery time and I always felt achy, tired and sluggish.

 

 

 

My hormones didn’t respond favorably, either, and I wasn’t seeing the physique results one would expect from working out so much!

 

 

So I made the decision to stop running last summer and give my full attention and commitment to a 5-day kettlebell training program. And it was definitely the right decision!

 

 

I recovered better and faster, and I began to see dramatic improvements in my strength and endurance during my kettlebell, barbell and conditioning sessions.

 

 

The absolute icing on the cake??  My physique tightened up after resting more and working out less.

 

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Don’t’ get me wrong—there’s still been running involved in those workouts, but it’s been either an easy 400 meter warm up/cool down OR 100 to 200 meter sprints. And by sprints, I mean SPRINTS—all out efforts.

 

 

I’ll be honest—I was a little nervous about the prospect of running three miles—straight—with my husband, in a group of soldiers, since I hadn’t been running in a while. I was afraid I’d lost my running endurance and that I might embarrass myself.

 

 

But I was pleasantly surprised that my conditioning was more than adequate to run a strong 3 miles, and I was able to revisit that ‘meditative’ quality that running always offers me.

 

 

See, when I first started running, I ran to burn calories/lose weight.

 

 

Then, after I had kids, it was one of the most convenient ways to get some exercise (next to at-home dumbbell and bodyweight circuit training).

 

 

Plus, running truly saved my sanity and helped me calm strong fears and emotions for many years in a row, particularly during my husband’s deployments to Afghanistan.

 

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Those longer runs taught me endurance, to tolerate discomfort longer than I wanted. They helped me train my brain and gave me the chance to be alone with my thoughts. And that repetitive rhythm really is like meditation in motion!

 

 

Now sprinting makes my body happier than lots of longer runs each week.

 

 

Sprinting has caused me fewer repetitive use injuries, and I credit sprinting for reshaping my physique dramatically—my legs and glutes are shapelier, and my body has become much leaner all over.

 

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And, as I was reminded during that 5k, sprint workouts are just SO much more time-efficient!

 

 

 

That said, I’m going to find a way to work in a gentle run or two each week when it feels right, because yesterday’s run also reminded me how much I like the feeling of being in continuous motion—not because I need to burn more calories, lol.

 

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So once again, the kind of cardio you (choose to) do, and how much of that cardio you choose to do depends on:

  • How much time you have
  • What your body’s unique needs are
  • What your personal fitness or physique goals are
  • What you ENJOY doing

 

 

 

While the physique and performance effects of sprint workouts are both dramatic and pleasing to me, I wouldn’t continue to do them if I didn’t enjoy them.

 

 

The same goes for running: if I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it.

 

 

My Bottom Line: I don’t ‘do cardio’ just for the sake of ‘doing cardio.’

 

And my recommendation to you:

Engage in workouts that are satisfying to you, constructive for your body, that work for your schedule, and supportive of your performance and physique goals.

 

If you’re not sure about what the right kind or amount of cardio is for you, then it might be helpful to answer a few questions:

What are your goals?

Do you have any injuries or inhibiting physical factors?

How much time do you have each day/week for workouts?

Do you like to exercise indoors or outdoors?

Do you enjoy cardio machines, or do you prefer classes?

Are you getting RESULTS from what you’re currently doing?

AND, most importantly, what do YOU like to do?

 

The way in which you answer these questions will help guide your choices about what kind of cardio to do (if any), how much, how long and how often.

 

And in case you’re looking for some new workout ideas, I send out time-saving workouts every Wednesday to my inner circle peeps, including some fun cardio training options.

 

If you’re not already on my email list, sign up here (and get a little bonus, too):  http://bit.ly/RLFWeeklyFitTips

 

 

Talk to you soon,

Kate

 

Friends don’t let friends be cardio bunnies! (Or, how I barely kept my mouth shut in the locker room)

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I swear I wasn’t eavesdropping.

 

 

I was just changing out of my running shoes and into my lifting shoes (yes, I wear different shoes for different activities, lol) and they were loud. Very loud.

 

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And it was all I could do to just change my shoes and not open my mouth–because I know that free advice is worth all you pay for it AND no one asked for my input.

 

 

It was still REALLY hard to shut up on this one.

 

 

One woman was complaining to the other that no matter what she did, her body just wouldn’t change.

 

  • That she had horrible genetics.
  • That she worked out TONS throughout the week–biking or spinning a few hours a week, running a bunch, then putting in long-duration efforts on the weekends–you’d think with all the calories she was burning, she’d lose more weight (her words)!
  • That she used to really follow a strict eating plan, but that after a while, she ‘just couldn’t hack it.’
  • That she was now considering adjusting her caloric intake, increasing it from 1200 calories because she wasn’t making any progress and she was starving all the time.

 

The one commiserated with the other. She just couldn’t, despite her best efforts, get her body to budge either.

 

 

 

 

You can see why it took iron will on my part not to bust into that conversation!!!

 

 

But I wasn’t infuriated or frustrated with THEM.

 

 

I actually feel a ton of compassion for them, and for so many others (mostly women) who struggle with their weight, cardio-ing themselves into the ground, restricting calories OR being disconnected from the impact of their eating habits, doing the same old strength training workouts, or barely strength training, grinding themselves down but getting nowhere.

 

 

It’s the ‘do more cardio to burn more calories’ approach that prevails all too often that kills me. That and the ‘I’m not getting results, so I’ll cut my calories to 1200 (or below)’ practice (a separate topic).

 

 

More cardio, longer cardio, fasted cardio…these alone are not going to help you burn fat/lose weight.

 

 

When women think they just need to run/spin/bike/elliptical for longer to make their body cooperate–no, to make it submit–it makes me cringe.

 

 

And I’m a runner, a distance one at that, so that’s saying a lot coming from me.

 

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Don’t get me wrong, cardio has it’s place, and for many good reasons (a great read on the topic: http://robertsontrainingsystems.com/blog/long-duration-low-intensity-cardio/). BUT it shouldn’t be your only form of exercise, and more is not (always) better.

 

 

The problem that a lot of women have is that they do cardio exclusively, do the same kind of cardio repeatedly, and do that cardio at a very moderate intensity.

 

 

Initially, when you’re building up your fitness base, you need this kind of cardio to burn calories and help your body adapt and grow stronger so it can handle more challenging kinds of movement (with greater impact) later.

 

 

But there comes a point when there are diminishing returns, and the body gets used to the kind of cardio you’re doing and gets more efficient, and finds ways to use less energy to get the same job done. And when the job is the same over and over again…the result is less caloric output, and no further muscle development.

 

 

Which brings me to the topic of muscles. What pops into your head when you hear or read the word ‘muscles?’ Arnold? The Rock? A cover model for a fitness magazine? (I’m an exercise geek, so I picture muscle fibers and muscle bundles, lol).

 

 

My point is that we, as women, too often perceive the terms ‘muscle’ and ‘muscle development’ to mean busting out of our clothes like the Hulk on ‘roids.

 

 

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That concept scares the bejeebers out of tons of women who don’t want to get ‘bulky’ and think lifting anything greater than a 10-lb. weight (five, if they listen to Tracy Anderson *insert visible cringe*) will cause their muscles to burst out of their shirts.

 

 

 

I promise this is not true. I swear to you it’s not true. I’ve been training hard and lifting heavy for several years, and I’ve only gotten more compact, not larger.

 

 

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April 2016: After a year of lifting the heaviest weights I’ve ever lifted consistently. No bulking.

In all actuality, lifting challenging weights consistently is one of THE greatest ways to improve your metabolism and your body composition (muscle:fat ratio, simply put).

 

It creates a situation where your body needs to use more energy to repair the micro-damage caused to muscle tissue when it’s challenged through weight (resistance) training, and using more energy means burning more calories.

 

 

All. Day. Long. Like 24/7 (It adds to your NEAT–that’s a topic for another blog).

 

 

More active muscle tissue means greater caloric burn all the time, AND even greater challenge (more caloric burn) when you do cardio, because the muscle fibers have been taxed in a new way and have to work a little harder to do that same old job.

 

 

Which brings me back to cardio.

 

 

Cardio is wonderful, and amazing, and soothing, and there is definitely a place for steady-state, longer-duration cardio in most people’s fitness plans. It’s good for endurance, it’s good for cardiovascular health and efficiency, it creates a nice, meditative ‘hum’ in the brain (my particular favorite, as running keeps me sane!).

 

 

All good things.

 

 

Also all things that won’t be continue to be great contributors to fat loss (weight loss) and body composition changes after a certain point. What will be a great contributor to continued body composition changes is changing things up a bit.

 

 

I mentioned I’m a runner, so obviously I don’t detest or demonize cardio. I don’t train the same way, for the same mileage, at the same intensity day after day, however. I like distance running–ALOT–but each of my runs during the week serves a different purpose.

 

 

I usually run three to four times a week, and these runs will include: one long-distance steady-state run to work on my endurance (especially if I’m training for a half-marathon), another run will be a middle-distance tempo run where I run at the fastest sustainable pace I can manage throughout the whole run, and another will be a sprint session where I run Tabata-timed sprints or 30-second sprints or hill repeats to improve my power (VO2 max).

 

 

But you don’t have to be a runner to adopt the same kind of approach to your workouts.

 

Whatever your preferred cardio modality (method), changing the intensity and duration of your workouts throughout the week can be a game-changer.

 

 

One longer duration, one sprint session, one ‘tempo’ session at the edge of your ability, and one interval session can make a world of difference in one’s body composition (and boredom factor!).

 

 

I also love circuit and interval training. This is where lifting weights and cardio intersect 🙂

 

 

Good Stuff.

 

 

My favorite circuits are ones that alternate between a strength training exercise and a cardio interval or ‘burst.’ Moving as quickly as you can, with good form, from one exercise to the next, with brief rests between, stimulates greater caloric expenditure than just plodding away on the treadmill or step mill for hours.

 

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10 minute kettlebell training sessions and other short ‘sprint’ workouts have created a much leaner physique than long runs ever did.

It also gives your heart a different kind of conditioning than steady-state cardio, which is beneficial as well–the two conditioning effects on the heart tissue are a nice combination (again, read Mike’s article). Usually, I include at least one circuit or interval session in my weekly workouts, as well as two more traditional weight training sessions.

 

 

THIS form of ‘changing it up’ is what your body needs to change, not just more cardio.

 

 

So when it comes to cardio, remember the adage: “More is not better. Better is better.”

 

 

Swapping out some longer cardio sessions for weight training and circuits? Even better.

 

 

But please don’t try to support your new, muscle-building (think SHAPING) and interval training efforts on 1,200 calories or less. That’s a recipe for disaster. And a subject for another day….

 

 

And remember:  Friends don’t let friends be cardio bunnies!

 

To get BETTER cardio and circuit training workout ideas, sign up for my weekly email newsletter. 

It’s *free* and full of exclusive done-for-you workouts, nutrition tips, tools and techniques, as well as practical lifestyle strategies to keep you feeling motivated and successful–things I only share with my inner circle peeps!

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