Is Your Cardio Making You Fat?

Hi friends! Thanks for checking out my first ever blog post! My hope for this blog is simply to provide you all with some answers, encouragement, and inspiration to help you on your journey to becoming the sexy beast you’ve always dreamed of being. I’ve been a little nervous about starting this up, so I decided to start with one of the most common questions that I get.

For any of you who know me or have been following my page for a while, you know that I am a huge advocate of intervals. What many don’t know is I also used to be a huge runner. (Like 6 days a week, thought I would die if I missed a day, type runner.) So I love getting the question, why should I do intervals?

cardio boredom

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, interval training is simply alternating bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity. At a glance, a person might not know which category to put this activity in, but try some out for yourself and you’ll figure out pretty quickly (if you’re doing them right) that intervals should be filed under the “Cardio” category. This is in contrast to what we call steady-state cardio where you move at the same pace for one longer chunk of time, like running.

You see, most people still think of running as the ultimate cardiovascular exercise. So when they want to get back in shape, it’s the first thing they go to. However, there are 2 big problems with this. First, running is an advanced exercise. I came across this quote a while back and it’s stuck with me ever since:

“You can’t run to get fit, you need to be fit to run.”

Here are a few fun facts for you: running is a plyometric exercise. Running one mile takes approximately 1500 steps. Running can produce forces 2-5 times your body weight per foot contact. Imagine, if you will, a new client comes to me wanting to get in shape, so I say, “Great! Why don’t we start with 1500 single-leg box jumps?” That client is gonna say, “Fool! You cray cray!” and is probably never coming back. (…if they’re smart anyways.)  -which is what most people do when they use running as a way to get back in shape. January 1, yeah baby, I’m gonna go run 5 miles! By January 14, everything hurts…so glad I didn’t join that running club! Here’s my point: most bodies cannot take the kind of repetitive stress and damage that running often creates.

The other big problem comes in only if your #1 goal is fat loss. The research is in, folks. The “fat-burning zone” is not as magical as we were led to believe. You see, your body is crazy smart. The more you hang out in this “magical” zone, the better your body gets at storing fat because it has become your body’s primary source of fuel. Your body is also super B.A. and will adapt pretty quickly to steady-state cardio, which in turn means you will burn less and less calories the more often you do it. (Depressing, and yet, kinda awesome all at the same time….)

When you perform short bouts of exercise at a very high intensity followed by lower-intensity exercise, your body is able to process lactic acid build-up, therefore reducing fatigue. This method allows your body to burn calories at a faster rate. Not only that, intervals also stimulate production of your human growth hormone (HGH) by up to 450 percent during the 24 hours after you finish your workout. This means that intervals will kick your metabolism into hyper-drive thus causing your body to continue burning fat for the next 24 hours – unlike running (or any other steady-state cardio) in which your body will stop burning extra calories within 30 minutes of stopping. 

So to review, intervals will increase your metabolism and help you burn more overall calories. All of this and I haven’t even gotten to my favorite reasons to do intervals. Sweet sassy! BUT before all you runners out there start staging a coup, let me say this: I am not trying to make running out to be the enemy. Here’s what I tell my clients. If you love to run, then by all means, run. I still enjoy going for a run from time to time as well. Just know why you’re doing it. If fat loss is your goal, strength training and intervals should be priority. And be kind to your body. Work up to it by starting with a solid base of strength  first and, for heaven’s sake, stop when things start hurting and figure out what’s causing you pain.

Now without further ado, here are my top 2 reasons for why I do them, have my clients do them, and why you should add intervals to your workout routine:

1) They keep boredom at bay.  Intervals are fun because there are endless possibilities when it comes to creating an interval workout. First off, you can use just about anything you want…kettlebell, medicine ball, battling rope, jump rope, a bike or just your body weight. Anything that is going to get your heart rate up quickly will do. Second, you can use a set amount of time or a distance to determine how long you want to go. Sprint up the hill, walk back down. Go hard for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds or 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off OR 60 seconds of work and 40 seconds of rest. The interval world is your oyster. Have a little fun, would ya!

2) They are efficient. Ooo boy, do I LOVE when stuff is efficient! (Seriously, ask anybody who has ever ridden in a car with me!) These babies will not only burn more fat, but they’ll do it in less time! Most people don’t have time to add 30 minutes on the hamster wheel..ehem, I mean treadmill to their workout routines.  Try 4-15 minutes TOTAL. If you’re working it like you’re supposed to that should be plenty of time.

Bonus) They are awesome for your heart. Have I mentioned that interval training will make you better, stronger, and faster! (Did anyone else just have Kanye’s Stronger start running through their head? No? Just me? Aight.) That’s right runners. Changing it up will give your body a much needed break and work some other important, and most likely under-used, muscles in the process. Plus, pushing past your usual comfort zone will make you faster because intervals are awesome at improving your overall aerobic capacity. It’s a win-win-win! Huzzah!

explosive cardio

So here you are. You’ve read the article. You feel like you are seeing clearly for the first time in ages and are pumped to try it out! First off, you’re gonna need a clock where you can clearly see the second hand or an interval timer. My personal favorite is the Gymboss. You can check that out on Amazon. However there’s also this really cool app on the iPhone called Seconds Pro that will do the same thing for around $4.99, I believe.

Here are a few of my fave ways to do intervals…..

*Pick an exercise and rep range. Let’s say 15 swings or for those without a kettlebell, 8-10 burpees. For 10 minutes, at the top of each minute you will do your chosen exercise and then rest for the rest of the minute. 10 minutes and you’re done…in more ways than one. :)

*Tabata style: 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest. 8 times through. Alternate between body weight squats and mountain climbers. Boom. 4 MINUTES TOTAL.

*And a more advanced one for my runner friends out there: hill sprints. No timer required. Find a hill. Sprint to the top. Walk back down. Repeat 10 times. Thank me later.

So try these out and let me know what you think! Remember be kind to your body and have some fun with it!

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